On the evening of Saturday January 31st hundreds of revelers descended upon the decaying Tower Theater in Downtown Los Angeles for an evening of art, music and creative fashion. The very first Edwardian Ball had landed in Southern California. The response was both enthusiastic and unforgettable.
Even at the very start of the night the venue was already over flowing with a sea of people in costumes ranging from the Victorian era to Burning Man types with glow in the dark accessories. It was hands down one of the most eclectic crowds to ever gather in such a setting, sporting a very healthy representation from all the generations presently dwelling in the City of Angels.
This was not the typical glam scene with nothing but pretty young kids. It was a crowd marked by character faces from youthful scenesters to the WWII generation, making for some of the greatest people watching I’ve had in at least a decade. What was equally significant was how respectful everyone behaved with regard to sharing space for a night. There was no ageism, scene hauteur or other negativity often played out in the darkness of a Los Angeles night. I have no idea if that was due to people taking up the spirit of a time when people had manners or if it was sheer communal joy for a shared passion. Either way, it was beautiful and set the tone for the night.
The promoters of the event under-estimated how popular the Edwardian Ball would be here. Very quickly the Tower Theater was too full to be truly comfortable. Navigating the deteriorating venue was often difficult, especially in intricate costuming. Equally unfortunate was the sound system. For a production focused so heavily on live music it was baffling. All the same, the featured talent presented their gifts without missing a beat, impressing upon us how marvelous they were that even in such conditions they were a wicked delight of which to partake.
Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer led the audience into an impishly evil little universe where torture was foreplay and ghosts were celebrated. Cirque Berzerk took a page out of a particular circus empire dominating Las Vegas and offered up a funky, sassy variation complete with street soul and an edgy sense of humor. (Tiger, you rock my world.) The jaw-droppingly unbelievable Helios Jive brought world class musicianship to theatrical whimsy for something you’d have to witness to understand. While not a live music act, the last thing I saw before leaving (as I departed before midnight due to the crushing crowds) was an eerily fascinating dance performance by Elysium. The make-up, lighting and choreography for that number were genius.
While there was the occasional anomaly of jeans and a shirt walking about, everyone dressed as excessively as possible. It was a constant surprise to see what new eye candy would saunter past. Even more fascinating and entertaining were the different scenes represented in the crowd. There were Goths, Burners, historical re-enactors, Glam Kids, underground artists, swing kids, Ren Faire players, sideshow performers, pirates and more. There was never a dull moment to be had between what was transpiring on the stage and what visual drama was unfolding within the ambient throng.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad start to what I hope will be a tradition. There isn’t anything like it in Los Angeles and clearly many of us crave such a thing. Some improvements would also add to a long future for the Edwardian Ball. A much larger venue would be ideal so that everyone can get inside and there is enough space for proper preening as well as navigating comfortably in ornate, heavy costuming. It was also hard to get into some of the vending areas to shop with such a mob scene. The production staff needs to tighten up to avoid such missteps such as having people on stage scene-stealing in an effort to get the next act prepared while another act is currently performing (ie. The trapeze fiasco during Jill Tracy’s set). A better sound system would be great too. I also heard a rumor that the bars ran out of alcohol, which might have been a good thing as some revelers were well into the cups by 11 pm but that goes back to under estimating the response which is an easy fix. Also, take note – Angelinos like to run tabs so a cash bar often surprises us.
Thank you for coming down to play with us, Edwardian Ball. Do return!
Special thanks to Gary Stevens of http://www.garysworld.net for the use of his excellent photography. For more images of the event visit this link.