dj dance off
I’m not sure what to expect at a Learning Secrets "Blazer Tag Dance Party," because I don’t think it’s ever been done before. There are things to look forward to, sure—but what? The uncertainty racks my nerves. I imagine running around and tagging people with laser rifles, and it sounds damn fun; but I don’t like the idea of losing in a laser tag tournament, which this dance party is (at least partly). It’s going to be winner-takes-all, with Fun Fun Fun Fest tickets up for grabs as the trophy.
Approaching the building I hear Learning Secrets’ set bleeding through the arcade walls, with a line of people outside waiting anxiously to get in, ready to lock and load. I head inside looking for the bar and a blonde girl walks in and past me wearing a pair of denim cutoffs and a white t-shirt, with neon-colored paint spread across her cheeks, transforming her into a future-bound warrior. I head a little further on and notice Ian Orth against a bright green backdrop with some sort of planetary painting on it, up above the tournament arena DJing for a crowd of people that will certainly grow in size as the hours roll on into the morning. He notices me looking and throws me a peace sign before putting on his headphones and bending down to cue up the next track on the mixer.
Hometown hero Neon Indian is playing right after, and I expect things to get hot and sweaty and absolutely nuts -- an amplified version of his memorable set at Rio Room two summers ago. Many folks have been waiting eagerly for the band’s second LP, Era Extraña, and I am no exception. After being fed that psychedelic 80’s-themed infomercial teaser, I had a feeling the record would be a huge success. But, like many people, I’ve wondered if Neon Indian is part of a legitimate movement in American music, or if their signature brand of fuzzy chillwave will end up just a blip on the radar. Either way, it’s hard to argue that frontman Alan Palomo isn’t on to something.
But enough of that, it’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m done with thinking. It’s time to act, goddamnit. I enter the arena (assigned to the Red Team) and wait impatiently for a woman to stop explaining the rules so that I can grab my phaser and start winning. My team and I launch into the arena and are met with a maze that looks like something out of Ender’s Game—dark and otherworldly and futuristic, full of people who actually do look like they’re from another planet. Unfortunately for my team, we have no clear leader and no strategy in place. And as I begin to dodge shots, I find two other soldiers and we form a small squadron. I point down below at The Enemy and yell “Fire, goddamnit!” but I suppose they think I'm kidding—my vest is vibrating from being tagged by the enemy, and it will not stop.
After about 15 minutes, it’s over. We lose. Blue Team: 27. Red Team: 13. I walk out frustrated, sipping on some whisky I had brought with me. Learning Secrets already has the crowd shaking their tails up above, and I head in just as Neon Indian gets behind the decks. I figure it’s time to drop my guard a little and let loose; as I begin digging into my repertoire of dance moves, I realize there is no turning back—it’s been a long while since I’ve gone out and consumed all of the flashing lights and pretty women and smoke machines and beats, beats that make my feet want to move effortlessly at godspeed.
When everyone has danced enough, the music is stopped, the arcade games are unplugged and the party comes to an end. I walk out with Ian and Jeramy of Learning Secrets and ask them about what inspired the crew to host such a frenzied event.
Tell me how the idea for this Blazer Tag thing came together.
We had been talking with our good friend Graham Williams from Transmission Entertainment, and for a while we’ve been wanting to throw a rad party at a weird, sort of off-the- cuff place. And basically as the Neon Indian show [at Mohawk] was coming about, [Transmission] got with us wanting to do a smaller-setting show.
Why Neon Indian?
Neon Indian appeals to a crowd that’s going to want to come to Blazer Tag and be carefree and just go for it. Being friends with Alan when he was living in town, we got together with him and thought about what we could do that’s different and unique and cool, but that spells “Austin.”
Blazer Tag was a good answer. Was it difficult to get the venue on board with the idea?
No, not at all. Transmission had everything to do with the production, and the sound. We work closely with Graham Williams. Learning Secrets has been about doing events that are unique, that aren’t fitting the kind of norm you’re going to see when you go out. Luckily our friends at Transmission have the same idea about events, and they can pull off something like this.
After such a unique event, we can look forward to early November when the same promoters bring us the sixth annual Fun Fun Fun Fest – where you'll have another chance to catch Neon Indian.