I’m moving to the Valley.
Not really, but the thought did cross my mind during a recent Thursday night when some patchouli-scented Topanga friends and I piled into my vegetable-oil-powered Benz for an impromptu excursion deep into the Valley. Past Oxnard, past Magnolia, past Victory, deeper and deeper we went until we reached the Crown Jewel of the otherwise dusty and graffiti-stained cultural outpost that is Van Nuys — the Laserium.
“What’s this show we’re going to, again?” one of the guys in the backseat asked while blowing a cloud of smoke through the sunroof.
“It’s a 3-D Holographic Luminescent Sonic Immersion combining live acoustic-sound healing with state-of-the-art 3-D stereoscopic live visuals,” someone replied, reading from a flier.
“Sounds weird,” he said, coughing and giggling all at once.
“Exactly!” I chimed in, excited at the prospect of the impending “transformative journey into Sacred Spiritual Union, Energetic Healing and Harmonic Retuning of [my] entire embodiment” despite that it would take place in Van Nuys.
We arrived half an hour late. A slim, middle-aged woman rushed us down the hall, through a curtain and onto a (p)leather couch, handed us cold bottles of water and scurried away. About 30 fellow travelers were lounging on sofas, perched on straight-backed chairs and lying prone on futons just in front of the stage. The show was just starting.
Onstage, a plasma television sat high up on a ledge in front of a larger, movie screen. Constance Denby, musician, sound healer and apparent fan of the sequin, darted between an electric keyboard and a strange-looking contraption of her own invention: the Space Bass — an interactive sculpture made of gutter-found tuning sticks and metal, which she played with two resin-caked bows while moaning and cooing along with her own hypnotic sounds. Off to the side, Rik Henderson, a.k.a. DJ Euphoria, sat in front of a computer, tip-tapping the evening’s visual component — a sea of swirling mandalas, farting tetrahedrons, and a smattering of rote New Age-representative imagery, including dolphins, inbred Scientologists riding a spaceship and that sort of stuff. The quality of the visuals was amazing — sharp, cutting psychedelic imagery jutting from the screen, tempting the audience to reach out and grab hold.
Twenty minutes into the show, my friend leaned in and whispered: “That’s what my DMT experience looked like.”
He was referring to Dimethyltriptamine — a psychedelic substance found in most grasses and in your brain. One puff will launch you through your own death and out the other side into a world of dancing neon Fabergé eggs.
During intermission, we gathered outside to bathe in the (almost) full moonlight. A man I guessed to be in his mid-40s joined us. He introduced himself as Autonomous or Apostrophus or Esophagus — something Greek meaning “unbreakable.” He told us that when he was 20 he beat blood/bone/brain cancer and every last snowball’s chance in hell by switching to a completely raw food diet. And by raw, I mean raw meat, raw eggs, raw milk — raw, raw, raw. Now, he has his Ph.D. in nutrition and tours the country teaching people how to eat. He regaled us with tales of nutritional conspiracy and pharmaceutical horror. It turned out he was 60.
Back inside, Denby announced that Part Two would tune up our chakras. She referred to a rumpled cheat sheet while giving us a brush-up on the specific locations of each energy center, along with its corresponding color.
“Shouldn’t she know these by heart?” my friend whispered.
While I was thinking the same thing, I voiced my inner Holier than Thou: “Let’s be open, shall we?”
The images appearing onscreen were amazing — wild flashes of neon spinning yarns of sacred geometry and psychedelia. The visuals merged with the sound, and wave after wave of healing vibrations saturated the darkened room.
“Put your attention in your fifth chakra!” Denby commanded.
Fifth chakra . . . the throat. All of a sudden my neck was warm and tingling, alive with energy, pulsating in synchronicity with Denby’s Space Bass, with the swirling mandalas on the screen, and with the entire mini-mall-dotted expanse of the San Fernando Valley.
Milling about the lobby after the show, we nibbled chocolate and strawberries, sipped soy chai, oozed trippy warm vibes all over one another’s sensible shoes and decided that next Saturday would find us once again on the wrong side of the hill, inside the Laserium, tripping our heads off to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.