Last night, Dumb Eyes’ awesome audio-visual spectacle Penetration returned to the Unicorn. Djs, promoters, et al, take note: the best club night in Seattle right now is being thrown by a graphic design company. Part of what makes the night so good is that it markets itself as a night of visuals that just happens to have a DJ, as opposed to yet another DJ night that happens to have visuals. This allows the weird genius of Christian Peterson’s DJing to sneak up on you; unlike many DJs, Peterson’s sets are not about the seamless mix but rather about the high-contrast juxtapositions (the Prodigy into Aerosmith into the Feelies). His selecting, aided by Penetration’s atmosphere, reveals the latent psychedelic qualities—strange sounds, hypnotic grooves, disorienting atmospheres, mood elevating riffs—in all kinds of music not normally associated with mind-alteration, from radio hip hop to hair metal. People got down.
The looping (and loopy) digital video projected all over the club—lots of stylized eyeballs and garish smiley faces—as well as the prismatic glasses handed out at the door provide plenty to look at, but they also encourage a kind of general voyeurism, and it’s a good looking crowd. (Taking cell phone pics through those glasses is a good look, too.) A friend remarked that the Penetration makes the Unicorn look like the bar in an ‘80s movie about the future, and it does feel fairly science-fictional to be able to trainspot Peterson’s set using Shazam on my iPhone (during Buccaneer’s Enya-sampling dancehall track—yes—“Fade Away” one head did this the oldschool way, by going up and asking the DJ what’s plying). There were technical difficulties—Peterson rewound and replayed one track after realizing it was only coming out of one speaker, and a couple songs skipped in a way that actually kind of worked in terms of “trippiness” (full disclosure: I lent them the turntables and mixer); also, some excitable drinker accidentally knocked over one of their projectors. Penetration returns to the Unicorn every second Thursday, right after Capitol Hill Art Walk; don’t miss it.