Otto, The Mad Scientist

The band Phish was in Miami to play four nights at the American Airlines Arena. I was baffled that  a band could fill an arena for four nights when our professional basketball team, the Miami Heat often couldn’t get the same arena three quarters filled. A quick walk around the bordering parking lot and it all made sense. It was filled with a bunch of dirty hippies who drove down from whiter locales like Boulder, Colorado and Bloomington, Indiana.

Phish fans like to think of themselves as direct descendants of Deadheads. They follow their favorite band around, smoke a lot of pot, and conveniently forget to take showers. They walk around the premises with an index finger raised believing someone will hand them a complimentary ticket. It seemed naive, but some kid from Ohio swore  it worked for him the night before.

Around the parking lot there were whispers of a “narc” hanging around. Was I the narc they were talking about because it had been two days since my last shower rather than six?

This brand new contingent in the Miami market was being targeted by event promoters with Phish “afterparties”. One of these events held at The White Room in the Miami Design District featured a performance by my old friend Otto von Schirach.

I had known Otto since the seventh grade before he travelled to alternate dimensions. This evening he looked like he came straight from the dojo. He sported a samurai’s robe, hairdo and fu manchu missing the center of his mustache. I had seen his show when he came to Los Angeles a few years earlier, but he was missing his performers. He was armed with an entire entourage of which I was now a part.

We were pushed into the club free of charge. It seemed a little excessive to be charging twenty dollars, but apparently cell phones, are not the only accessory that  differentiates Phish fans from old school Deadheads. They also have ATM cards.

The place quickly exceeded capacity with guys wearing sandals and hippy chicks with loose fitting braless blouses. This was not the typical Miami crowd. They were all dancing as the dj spun seventies funk and tracks from the Buena Vista Social Club. Then the music stopped. Otto was on stage equipped with a white Zorro mask. One of his dancers, Feathers, was standing next to him. They both silently had their arms raised with their hands in a triangle shape.

A couple people in the crowd starting booing. Others mocked them by aping their triangle salute. Otto then took the mike. “We come from the Bermuda Triangle.” The phrase Bermuda Triangle repeated in a digital echo as the beats began. I was right next to the speaker and I think my right ear drum collapsed. This was electronic music, not the countrified jam band the crowd travelled across the country to see. So at first there was indifference to what was happening onstage.

But then more and more freakiness came out. One dancer wore a zoot suit and an alligator head mask. Another stripped down to her underwear, occasionally wearing an American flag in a robe and mask similar to what prisoners wore in Gitmo. Then Nastie came on stage, a fat hairy man wearing nothing but a thong and cupid wings. When he climbed on to a stripper pole shaking his pale and flabby butt, the crowd finally got it. They were living out their fantasy.

They all longed to be in San Francisco in 1966 to be at an Acid Test hosted by the Merry Pranksters. This might be as close as they were ever going to get. They all started moving. When Feathers and the alligator head got on the floor, hippies girls started grinding up on them. Cameras were taken out and a hundred flashes went off. By the time Otto announced, “This will be my last song. Thank you for opening my third eye.” there was a sadness in the air. Otto started collecting his gear as much of the crowd had forgotten what act they saw earlier in the night.

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