The Night of the Tarantula offers Fusebox audiences wine, food and unexpectedcommunity
At first it all seemed a bit thrown together. The Fusebox Hub is a large warehouse on East Fifth with an artfully designed landscape and a row of porta-potties out back. Most attendees wore comfortable shoes but a few unlucky women tottered through the wood chips that covered the yard in heels or platform sandals.
“Come in! Find a your seat — there’s already delicious flatbread waiting. Then meet me at the service table for an Apertivo Americano. Very refreshing.” The eager crowd flooded into the building for their promised bread and drinks.
For Digestible Feats: The Night of the Tarantula, Fusebox converted a corner of its Hub into an Italian restaurant, complete with red checkered tablecloths and smiling servers. Strangers shuffled together to sit at round tables, eat Puglia inspired Italian food, and listen to composer Graham Reynolds — as part of a five piece band — play music inspired by south Italian folk traditions and chef Lucky Sibilla’s puccias.
Sibilla uses puccia, an Italian bread, for his wood fired sandwiches that he sells out of his food trailer on 5th and Lamar. Bread of all kinds featured heavily in the five course meal, eliciting excitement that turned to groans of, “Oh my god more bread? I’m so full!” by the time the dessert course of sweet puccia with peanut butter, fresh fruit and jelly landed on the tables.
The diners had good reason to feel stuffed. The portions were generous and the food, while simple and vegetable based, was rich. Both Reynolds and Sibilla proudly noted that, with only minor adjustments, all five courses were vegan.
The un-airconditioned Fusebox Hub wasn’t the ideal venue for this event, especially with the Texas spring warming up to the mid 90s. Once the sun went down, however, the evening cooled enough for the industrial fan in the corner to generate a pleasant breeze. After the warehouse was dark enough to feel cozy and a couple of bottles of wine had gone around, the initial awkwardness of the dinner-with-strangers eased and conversation flowed freely.
In between courses, Reynolds and the band played a variety of songs inspired mainly by the theme of the evening, the southern Italian folk dance called the Tarentella. The dance has several different origin myths, all involving the bite of a tarantula. Reynolds played variations of its 6/8 beat on tambourines, drums, the piano and finally with the full band. A few in the audience seemed swept up in the frenzied music but no one was brave enough to throw back their chair and dance.
It’s a shame. By the end of the night, everyone had had enough good wine to justify a little tarantism. Even so, the thrown together crowd from the beginning of the evening was a smiling, satisfied community by the time the band launched into its final piece. Digestible Feats offer a rare opportunity for audiences to connect not only with performers, but with each other.