Neon Indian and Learning Secrets surreal laser-lit dance party (2011)
Neon Indian – Era Extraña
Photography by: Thom Fain
I’m not sure what to expect at a Learning Secrets BLAZER TAG DANCEPARTY, because I don’t think it’s ever been done before. There are things to look forward to, sure, but what? The uncertainty is racking 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. It’s going to be a winner-takes-all tournament, 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 & Load. I walk in looking for the bar, and a blonde girl walks in and past me like she owns the place; 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 walk a little further and notice Ian Orth against a bright green backdrop with some sort of planetary painting on it, up above the tournament arena and DJing for a crowd of people that will certainly grow in size as the hours roll on into the morning. He notices me and throws me a peace sign before putting on his headphones and bending down to cue up the next track on the mixer.
Neon Indian is playing right after, and I expect things to get hot & sweaty and absolutely nuts; an amplified version of those sets 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 mark on music will end up just a blip on the radar. Either way, it’s hard to argue that 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 as part of the Red Team and wait impatiently for a woman to stop explaining the rules so that I can grab my phaser and start winning. She eventually stops talking, and my team & I launch into the arena and it’s like something out of Ender’s Game – dark & otherworldly & futuristic with some people, some people who actually do look like they’re from another planet. Unfortunately for my team, we have no clear leader. No strategy in place. And as I begin to get shot at, I find two other soldiers and we form a small squadron. I point down below at The Enemy and yell “Fire! Fire, goddamnit!” but I suppose they thought I was kidding – my vest is vibrating from being tagged by the enemy, and it will not stop.
After about fifteen minutes of dealing with these insubordinate soldiers, it’s over. We lose. Blue Team: 27. Red Team: 13. And so 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 up & in around when Neon Indian gets behind the decks. I figure it’s time to let loose and stop trying to be so damn professional, and to take in those well-known lusts of the dancefloor. As I begin digging into my repertoire of dance moves, I realize there is no turning back – it’s been a while since I’ve gone out and consumed all of the flashing lights & pretty women & smoke machines & beats, beats that make my feet want to move effortlessly at godspeed.
Soon though 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.
Thom Fain: Tell me how the idea for this Blazer Tag thing came together.
Learning Secrets: 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.
TF: Why Neon Indian?
LS: 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.”
TF: Blazer Tag was a good answer. Was it difficult to get the venue on board with the idea?
LS: 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 can catch Neon Indian if you didn’t have the chance to enjoy the festivities last night, in what appears to be the finale of an all-inclusive deal with Transmission Entertainment.