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Dancing and Altars and Capes, Oh My!

A look into my first experience at Meow Wolf Denver, on Bicycle Day I might add. “Thank you, have a nice night,” the Uber driver said as I got out of his Hyundai Elantra. I took two steps toward the enormous, white warehouse with neon accents. I took like two whole steps before realizing I’d forgotten to take the vaunted vape out of my pocket before I left the house, a mistake I’d made before. As I walked to the same tree in the parking lot that I left my pen under last time, a voice came over the PA reminding me that takeoff was about to commence. The voice said “No weapons, no capes.” I thought it was more of Meow Wolf being quirky. Almost immediately I was a guy dancing into the venue in a very bright cape and Aladdin pants.

Cape count: 1

We navigated security (now, vapeless), and I must say, the lobby was the cleanest venue lobby I had ever seen, as were the bathrooms. I suppose that's what happens when the venue is in a quasi-museum. There was a super friendly coat check team, and a small pop-up bar, and the cafe and gift shop for the museum was closing soon, but I arrived pretty close to doors, so there was a little overlap.

I’d done some reading about what to expect from the venue before game time, but still had no idea what to expect. I don't think it translates very well to paper, or to a camera for that matter. But if you'll let me, I’d like to peel back the curtain and try to paint a picture of the Perplexiplex, and the joy I saw within its four moving walls.

Okay, the walls aren't “moving,” but every inch of them has live art projected on them via a live VJ. Works of art, man. At times it was sort of sleek graphic design, circa early 2000s hacker movie with fast-moving texts and vivid right angles, lots of silver. But that was the minority of the time. There was a lot of video of trees and mushrooms growing, nature iconography, really, quick flashing colors, mandalas, and such. Most of it was quick-moving colors, too fast or too slow to really identity what I was looking at. All I could tell was it was beautiful, and moving to the music. I knew when I saw something that looked like liquid that it was a live projection from the VJ booth. It was, from what I could tell glass bowl of water on a record player to move and rotate the food dye on top of the water, with a camera in place above. All in sync with the music. And I forgot to mention, it's being projected on the ground, too, bubba.

The stage had almost an altar look to it, with the artists in the middle of this series of white windows and also changed colors (and at times had displays through the windows). The booth was just black, a far cry from a lot of DJ setups. The contrast was nice.

Far and away, my favorite thing to do last night (besides swim in the visuals) was watching people walk into the venue and see everything for the first time. I watched one girl's face go from happy to serious to a verbal “Oh my God, I’m so excited,” to her friend, back to elated all in a matter of about a second. I watched about a dozen people go from speaking politely with security to dancing on in before they were even in the door. I watched people play it cool, and let me tell ya, Ujuu’s crowd aren't all great actors! I see how hype you are! I watched a guy walk back out, and then he pulled out his phone and filmed the transition from the museum lobby full-immersive psychedelic experience. Room transitions are something else on bike day, huh? I watched the cape guy dance from the lobby into the venue with full liberation.

Capes: Still one, but twice, and dancing.

Cape guy danced with everybody. He bounced around the room and gave everybody the biggest smile he had, and swiftly moved on. I don’t know cape guy, I don’t know how cape guy grew up, I don’t know what his favorite cereal is or what his relationship with his mom is like, but I know in that room, on that day, Cape Guy was at home. He looked like he has never felt more at home in the crowd at Perplexiplex. And he wasn't the only one. The room was all smiles all around, even from the artists' crew. I even saw one guy light up when he locked eyes with a security person by the stage, somebody's mom presumably, and they danced with each other from across the crowd. Everybody was dancing with everybody. Security. Cape Guy. Ujuu. Jackie Spoons. The walls were dancing with everybody.

I’ll be back to The Perplexiplex at Meow Wolf, I’d be thrilled to see anybody play there. But if we're being honest, you never forget your first. And spending my first there with Ujuu and RYNS and Kizer on bicycle day is a fleeting memory that I’ll always cherish. Thanks for having me, guys. And thanks to Meow Wolf for permitting capes (but not weapons or VAPES).

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