A futuristic pop-art fashion show, comedy, live art, acrobatics, and a hoppin' house band, all showcased inside an old bank vault. The fourth installment of Robert Vargas' Red Zebra party last Thursday night was a varied slush of local tribes and vibes that not only brought the creative zest of Downtown Artwalk (where Vargas' street portraiture has become one the most popular attractions) into a swanky yet speakeasy-style club environment, it tweaked and twisted it all together like only an organically grown artistic endeavor can.
The fashion came courtesy of outrageous clubber/dancer/designer Ernie Omega (right in above photo, Vargas is on the left) whom we've come to know and love on the scene for his and his BF Walki Talki's wild ensembles and entourage (the Omega Collektiv). You can always count on these hot-bot club kidz to be in some out-there creation where ever they go.
The show was not surprisingly a vampy visual feast, with models walking the runway (straight out of a circular vault door) in disco-ball mirrored jumpsuits, hand printed unitards and other body-conscious frocks. Vargas added his signature touch for a few pieces: live painting of the models' portraits as they reached the end of the runway and paint applied directly to the catwalk crawlers' clothes too. We particularly loved the black grease-like swathes he did on this model (left). After all, art is about making a statement and even the most fabulous and flamboyant design need not be held back by frivolity. With Vargas at the helm, we're guessing it never will be at Zebra.
The monthy gathering is held the first Thursday of every month at the Crocker Club, a subterranean bar located below the Crocker bank building that opened up last year on Spring and 6th streets. We'd never been, mainly because we'd heard the dress code and door 'tude made for a wacks and $lacks only type crowd. Apparently that's changed recently, and it's likely to see a full metamorphosis now that Vargas -- a long-time downtown resident who used to be the talent buyer for the Conga Room -- has been named the venue's new booking director.
He utilizes the sexy space to full effect on his Thursdays, with comedy warming up the back room early, models frolicking inside the old cubicles later and a jazzy-soul jam band (The Makers, known for their Tuesday residency at 7 Grand with Vargas on the canvas) rocking the small stage and dance floor all night.
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This little guy offered contortionist poses throughout the club, while feathered femmes and fellows held court in seated areas along the dark, tunnel-like runway before the show. Drinks ($6-8 range) flowed. Cameras flashed. People danced. Art was absorbed and appreciated. Creative connections were forged.
Like the area's loft parties, Zebra has a spontaneous zoo-like feel, but there is always a method to the extra-sensory madness. Vargas' intentional juxtaposition of atmosphere and artistic expression is just one of the things that makes this party so unique. It being free is another. And it's just the beginning. Next month, Omega will be hosting the back room, along with the night's usual components (runway show, live art, music). See Vargas' site for updates on what's in store.
Next Red Zebra is July 1st at Crocker Club, 453 S. Spring St., dwntwn. See Vargas attract crowds in the streets this Thursday, during the Downtown Artwalk.
Read more and see more in Thursday's all new Nightranger column and slideshow.