As you know, I am a devout fan of seeking out life. I am up for almost any adventure, at least once. While researching my options for this weekend, as I always do, I came across a blurb on LA Weekly’s Facebook page that caught my immediate attention: 5 Chill Things to Do in L.A. This Week for $5 or Less. Hey! Who doesn’t like to have fun for $5 or less? United Kingdom DJ Oliver Payne was hosting a listening party to KLF’s 1990 ambient LP, Chill Out. Seems cool right? Well there were a few rules attached. You must arrive by 7pm. No late entries. No talking. No cell phones. No Ins/Outs. And you would be committing yourself to 44 minutes and 20 seconds of pure chilling out to the sounds of KLF. Bring a blanket, a pillow and anything else that will make you comfy as you lie out under the stars of a night sky in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles California, while sharing this intimate experience with those around you.
COUNT ME IN! Of course, I called to ask permission and Elliott was welcome (thank you cool dog-friendly promoters)! After spending the afternoon perusing the Annenberg Space for Photography’s Country Western photo exhibit, we headed out for the evening’s main event. I was really excited to see just what was in store for us. Waze map app lands me at a building in a very industrial part of town, graffiti, large factory-looking structures, mostly vacant, and I was starting to get a little weirded out. I see two seemingly intimidating men standing outside the front doors of a building that I assumed was a homeless shelter, mental hospital or small inner city prison, and thought, “nahhh,” that can’t be the right place, CAN IT? COULD IT BE? Why yes, yes it was. The space at 356 South Mission Road. Ohhhhh myyyyy. Take a deep breath, it’s another adventure. It will all be fiiiine. Who knows? It could be a life changing experience. Thanks to my good parking Karma, I score a close spot, grab a blankie from the back of my car and head towards the building with Elliott in tow.
I get to the door and I say, “umm is this the Chill Out party?” The guys are super cool and push the door open for me and say “yeah, go on in and have a great time,” and I step inside of this ginormous warehouse. Upon entering I am now in a boutique art gallery of sorts. Random books, tshirts, shoes, jewelry and other artistic goods. I’m looking around and everyone else seems to know where they are going. It was such a strange sensation. I make my way through the people in the front room/boutique and the next open space has large work bench tables with Samosas in baskets for people to eat (Indian appetizers). I had just eaten like a starved moose in Century City and could not fathom one more bite of food crossing my lips, although I was wildly curious to taste them to further enhance my current experience. But I declined and kept walking. The next space of the warehouse was more of an artist workspace, dimly lit, large canvases, a few people doing their creative thing. I stepped outside into a back courtyard that had a basketball hoop with small white lights hanging and benches around the perimeter. People were quietly talking amongst themselves and Elliott and I were feeling a bit out of sorts. I looked up and saw BARBED WIRE all around the building. Ok…what WAS this building? It HAD to be some sort of institution? My vibes were pretty strong and I am telling you, this place has housed people of some sort. Patients? Prisoners? Something. I walk to the end of the courtyard and there is a small sign with an arrow pointing to the Chill Out yard. I look ahead and there is a sign with the rules. A guy is walking toward me who seemed to be “in the know” and I ask him, “are we allowed to go in early?” He answers in a totally laid back way, “oh yeah, go in and grab a spot.”
Ok, so while I’m on somewhat high alert, nothing seems to be too out of sorts or creepy. I think we are safe to continue. I walk around the corner and there is another (larger) courtyard area that has astroturf laid out on top of the concrete, bean bags strewn about and a couple of futon couches. I made a bee-line for the futon which had a couple on one end of it and just enough space for Elliott and I to stretch out a bit. So glad I nabbed it when I did. People started pouring in with their blankets, yoga mats, and even a hairless 2 pound chihuahua wearing a sweater. I would say the crowd was somewhat varied in age, but mostly 30’s-40’s is my guess. An eclectic bunch, no one too outrageous. No gang bangers, no club kids, and no uber hipsters. But definitely a creative and artsy bunch. The night was actually a tad chilly and I was really happy I grabbed my own blanket as I left the car. We settle in to our spot, Elliott gets comfy and we watch as the rest arrive. It had the feel of a sacred happening. Everyone walking carefully and speaking in whispers.
At the exact stroke of 7:00pm, all the lights go out, and up on the screen is displayed a green pasture with grazing sheep. The music starts and Elliott drifts off to sleep. As I focused my mind on the music, the grazing sheep, the cool night air, I was lulled into a state of total relaxation. I dozed in and out. Are they pumping something into the air above us? In the moments that I would open my eyes, I was fixated on this guy, maybe early 40’s, trying SO HARD to “chill out” as he wrestled with the bean bag chair and took puff after puff of weed off his pipe. It was somewhat ironic thinking that I was completely sedated and sober, while this guy was ready to trip his ass off yet could not get into the moment. My mind would catch samples in the songs of things like Elvis singing “In the Ghetto,” an old classic “Stranger on the Shore,” by Acker Bilk and even Pink Floyd bits thrown in. Utterly bewitching. I looked down at Elliott several times and he was completely zonked out. As snug as a bug in a rug, with the blanket on top of him and breathing deeply. I was sliding in and out of consciousness, more in than out. And as quickly as it started, the music ended, the grazing sheep disappeared and the lights came up. The crowd clapped. And it was over. Bottles of water were waiting for us as well as more snacks. Had we done something to necessitate nutritive replenishment? Kind, but so odd.
Was this some secret transcendental meditation experiment? Was I injected with something on the way in? I felt totally calm and at peace. Almost like I was glowing from within. I went up and spoke to the DJ Oliver for a few minutes and told him what an awesome experience this was and he was really pleased that I enjoyed myself. This was the first event of its kind in the United States. He has done this in the U.K. and Italy with a really positive response as well. I mean, I was somewhat speechless to be honest.
I decided to leave on a high note and floated back toward the main warehouse. As I made my way through all the people milling about, I got to chat briefly with a lovely young lady named Sheryl, who was there representing Ooga Booga, the retail entity that occupies the space in the front of the warehouse. When she asked where I drove in from tonight, I told her Manhattan Beach. Her response was “Oh my God, that’s dedication!” I said “anything for a cool, new adventure.” And that it was. So bizarre. So cool. So L.A.
Keep calm and Chill Out, my friends. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S_lktstwrs