The Concert That Played With Fire

Last night we went to a benefit event at The Crucible in Oakland to celebrate their 12th anniversary, and it was very cool…er… hot?

I’ve always been a big fan of The Crucible. I first heard of them at the first Maker Faire a few years back where they brought their “fire truck” : an old-timey looking fire truck that shot fire from its hoses instead of water. I knew they had a workshop space for woodworking and metalworking, but the more I looked into it, the cooler they got. They teach creative and performance arts mostly involving some amount of fire: blacksmithing, arc-welding, fire hula-hoop, silver casting, and lots more.

We went mostly because our friend Marisa said to Julie she’d be debuting an “opera plus trapeze” act. Of course we were game! Her performance was maybe 2/3rds through the show, but all the acts before and after were very awesome too.

They’re located in a warehouse in West Oakland, honestly kinda a sketchy area (the nearby Subway has a plexiglass partition the entire length of the counter and one of those security sliding drawers. It’s near a BART station, so at least that meant there would be a fair amount of traffic. There was also a large amount of event staff and a security guard stationed about half a block in all directions from the entrance. The entrance had a big archway made of metal made to look very rough though it was perfectly stable. Inside were a couple fire sculptures. The Oracle Fire Fountain one was a tall, skinny pyramid with rose-petals cut out of it that fire flickered out of while a curtain of rain fell down around the entire structure from above dulling some of the heat. Then there was a large pipe with two jets of flame that appeared to be able to rotate 360 degrees on each end perpendicular to the pipe while the center of the pipe was mounted on an axle and the whole tower and pipe would spin based on which direction the jets were aimed. The math nerd in me also loved it’s called 4pyre². The entrance hall here was lined with a timeline of the Crucible’s history starting out as a 6000 square foot space to the over 50-thousand one they’re in now. It had pictures from their (almost) yearly Fire Festivals and other shows. So much neat stuff and we hadn’t even gotten to our seats yet!

The evening was a variety show of different performances. There list is here from the site and we really liked all the acts. We were most excited to see Marisa’s performance which started with a running motorcycle and ended with opera over techno about 20 feet in the air.

I think my next favorite thing was watching Loop!Station (their site appears to be down…) which is a cellist and a singer who use live looping to create their music. They are not to be confused with the Roland Boss Loop Station which as an effects pedal… a version of which they must surely use. The videos here are phenomenal. The one of them doing Theory of Noise at the De Young is awesome. Once their site comes back up I need to find out when I can see them live again and buy all their music.

The master of ceremonies was Mark Growden whom I hadn’t heard of, but I also need to buy everything he’s put out. He and his band had a very friendly style of music that reminded me of Calexico or Shivaree or Jenny Lewis’s Acid Tongue album. I’d described it before as “Americana” : kinda twangy but really more roots and folk sound as if it didn’t specialize into genres of country or blues or jazz or rock but evolved on its own.

There were a few very cool trapeze acts including one done at the same time as Loop!Station did Theory of Noise. Scarlett and Axelrod were two women sharing a large hoop suspended from the ceiling. There was another that amazingly combined both trapeze and flamenco complete with live musical accompaniment (and stomping!) Another great performance was some good old fashioned B-boy work by Flavor Group as well as some interestingly jazz-infused belly dancing by Jill Parker and the Foxglove Sweethearts.

A short, but awesome act was that of Aziz Abbatiello who performs a whirling dervish which in and of itself is very cool, except the costume’s flat cloth had torches on the edge which made for an amazing display when spinning at full speed. You can see him in the trailer for the show we went to at about 0:48.

By the way, the stage had two trees cut out of sheet metal with jets for gas that could be ignited for a burning-backlit tree effect. There were also three pipes that appeared to have holes cut in them for small flames that were (amazingly) connected to a speaker or somehow set up to pulse with the music. This was especially cool with any music with bass hits.

So yeah. There’s a lot of fire here. I didn’t know I was a pyromaniac, but I did like it a lot. I even signed up for a couple classes which still have spots– the Febuary 19th and 20th sessions for Fire Eating, and I might take Fire Breathing, too! Excitement!

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