Even if it's not your most typical performance--or maybe because of that fact--Jason Webley fans are fanatical. As the show date came closer, I started hearing increasingly more mentions of the man's name, along with even more unyielding insistence that, although I'd never heard of him, Webley is a local star among his fans here in Seattle. I really had no choice but to cave in to my curiosity, and come Saturday night, November 1, I joined the 600-plus crowd to witness his spectacle.
The show began with a small puppet, who came on stage strumming a modest song on a tiny acoustic guitar. Then came a troupe of musicians dancing their way on stage banging shovels and drums before picking up an array of instruments--cellos, violins, an upright bass, a clarinet, tuba, trombone, saxophone, piano, drums... though Webley was still nowhere to be seen. As the beats grew stronger, a trunk in the middle of the stage opened and a shirtless, thinly framed, shaggy-haired man shook and twitched his way into a standing position from inside. At the sight of him, the crowd went crazy. This was Jason Webley. Two assistants cloaked him in a trench coat and hat, and strapped his accordion across his chest.
Once out of the box, Webley owned the audience. The fans danced around the aisles for song after song as he took them on a journey through sadness, happiness, and just plain craziness. With their coats pulled over their heads and kicking their legs out in front of them, the crowd did the "the Gnome." They pointed their fingers to the sky and spun around dozens of times, falling down and crashing into the people around them. They tickled their friends and tickled strangers. They tossed around dozens of red balloons symbolizing hearts... in short, they went completely nuts.
Just as the mood was hitting its most frenzied stride, it was time for Webley to die. From the center of the room, a small angel puppet, built in his likeness, flew toward the stage. Webley grabbed it, held it, and broke off its wings. The room became utterly silent. He sobbed behind his long brown hair as he removed the angel's heart. The violins and piano began to build into a beautiful, somber song, and Webley folded himself back into the trunk. As the audience filed out, the music stayed steady. For now, Jason Webley was once again dead.
He'll be back in the spring, and despite the fact that I sat there confused and out of place throughout most of the show, I'll probably be there, just to see what the hell the performance guru has come up with this time. MEGAN SELING