Expect the Unexpected at Cabaret Voltaire

Cabaret Voltaire, inspired by the influential Dada art movement initiated nine decades ago in Zurich, was inaugurated in Hollywood by Christian Jon Meoli as an avant-garde arena for art that evolved expression and defied convention. On July 15, 2004, Ego Plum and the Ebola Music Orchestra, fashion designer Julie Plum, and performance artists Kimberly Gooze and Susan Patel came together to head the unpredictable celebration of the Cabaret Voltaire One Year Anniversary.

Kimberly Gooze

As a golden dusk languorously overcame the Hollywood surroundings, Cabaret Voltaire began in the grass outside of the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. Situated atop a hill, the theatre offered city views, while the event offered blithe young bow catchers, who handed out gift bows and small nets and got the crowd warmed up to the whimsical Dada sport of Gift Bow Catching. Leading off with this event immediately set the crowd in the lighthearted spirits proper for the evening. Participants could not fail to be amused at the aesthetics of their activity, yet the simple pleasure naturally took over as the laughs and chatter of the crowd filled the twilight. The ubiquitous smiles revealed the release inherent in the delightfully absurd activity, after a weekday in the bustling city below. This was only the beginning of a night that requested a simpler, open mindset. Kimberly Gooze and Susan Patel soon emerged, festively clad, to recruit other bow-tossers into the center of a large circle of bow-catchers. Producer Christian Jon Meoli was also in the thick of things, igniting enthusiasm in his path. Everyone proceeded to break the existing Guinness World Record for Gift Bow Catching set last year in Switzerland, which entailed maintaining the circle and a shower of airborne bows for twenty minutes. It was accomplished with great gusto.

Ego Plum

Afterwards the crowd proceeded into the building, not entirely sure what to expect except for the unexpected. At this point everyone was made to wait a little long for the main events to begin, and the area was warm with all the bodies freshly exerted from the bow catching, but nevertheless the diverse crowd provided plenty of eye candy. A three-armed man happened to ask me seductively, "Is this seat taken?" before plopping down next to me on the stairs. The very mixed crowd appeared to range from twentysomethings to fiftysomethings, and covered the spectrum from trendy to goth in style, all drawn together by the fashion, music and entertainment to come and the unique spirit of artistic dissent and artistic leisure characteristic of Cabaret Voltaire.

At last the highly anticipated show began with a video projection depicting everything from men on stilts to harpists to magicians. Onscreen words proclaimed Dada to have influenced celebrities such as Andy Warhol and the Sex Pistols. As shouts of "Viva Dada!" rang out in the audience, the fashion show began, showcasing Julie Plum's designs for the Klaklo line. Models sauntered out one by one in limited edition print tee shirts inspired by Dada and made specifically for this event. Filtered percussive music provided the sonic background, which elicited laughter such as when a vaguely Asian-accented female voice proclaimed "Green dot" over the music, and a model emerged in a pink shirt with a large green "dot" on the sleeve and the side. The music incorporated phrases in many languages, some as random as "Steamed yams. Candied yams. Microwaved yams. George Forman yams." And indeed, the models would methodically regard their Swatch limited edition Cabaret Voltaire Watches from the Swatch/Dada Collection, select an object off a table, and present an audience member with the unexpected gift (ranging from yams to broccoli to toy scissors). Some models smiled at the wacky humor of it all, while some maintained a lofty, classic model's attitude, while all seemed at times like product demonstrators hamming it up. The audience gave the show their rapt attention through the no-less-odd finish when the models returned for a group bow and walked offstage with masks attached to the back of their heads, as though their bodies were on backwards.

A video projection ensued of a news clip of a school shooting. The clip's authenticity became dubious when the story moved to the young boy's American Online profile that contained "666" and found him guilty of listening to the music of… Ego Plum. As the screen lifted to reveal the stage, the crowd erupted to welcome The Ebola Music Orchestra, a 10 piece ensemble headed by director Ego Plum and reminiscent of They Might Be Giants, Pink Floyd and Trippin' Daisy. Some jazz, some rock, and all innovative describes the ten suit-clad men who managed more instruments onstage at once than I've ever seen in a live performance. These included an accordion, trumpet, trombone, saxophone, bells, tambourine, keyboards, drums, bass and guitar. Projected and synchronized video montages on a background screen moved with either the beats of the music, the song lyrics, or the musical themes. The random images contained everything from insects to strange landscapes to jumbled letters and lyrics. The band seemed to gradually build up energy throughout the show. Their music contained high-pitched, fervent, loud, fast sections alternated with slower sections to contrast. For the many elements contained by all ten musicians, they were very well in sync. The ending songs built up to a frenzy and collapsed, and although the crowd dwindled slightly toward the finish of the hour-plus long set, the remaining crowd attentively carried the applause with extra volume.

Before this event, when I heard the word "Ebola" I thought of, well, the virus, but the Ebola Music Orchestra makes quite an impression, definitely enough to replace my previous association. For an out-of-the-ordinary, out-there sort of evening, Cabaret Voltaire makes an unforgettable show.

For more information, check out www.cabaretvoltaire.org and www.egoplum.com.





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