With an art exhibit dedicated to the darker forces of Los Angeles, Esteban Schimpf may have gotten what he asked for inviting a mystery band called Highons to play his closing reception.
The secret Schimpf set up was that Ariel Pink would be one of the masked members irking out strange noises in the corner of Carmichael Gallery. But either Pink grew a few inches since FYF Fest, or the guy wearing a silver space suit was somebody else, an impostor. And they would have gotten away with it, had an intrepid reporter not gotten involved.
Fact is, the band did get away with it. They played a set that sounded like mice snacking on corn and coffee beans. Some pretty melody or coherent rhythm would arise and they would slice through it like wanderers with machetes. There was a voice coming from somewhere but looking in every corner of the gallery (where perhaps Pink might be hiding with a microphone) — behind the propped up stained mattress, inside the dark room where Los Super Elegantes bounced around on a screen, and even beyond a few dark curtains — only confirmed that something was definitely up and this mystery grew heavier as the sounds the band made grew noisier and the crowd got drunker and smoked cigarettes.
This was the culminating event of “Instant L.A. Summer,” an art exhibit curated by Schimpf to exhibit the notorious darkness that lurks behind L.A.'s sunshine and breeze. “I selected artists at the edge of the envelope,” Schimpf said. “They're expanding the field of their practice. Every artist in the show does that or has done that and continues to do that. That's avant-garde to me.” Ariel Pink certainly would fit into this category, but sending a decoy, is that avant-garde or just plain weird and dark?
The show ended. Schimpf was thrilled and stepped outside to pay the band. Here was the moral dilemma. Whose responsibility is it to reveal the truth? How to do it? Give them the opportunity to laugh and say “Gotcha!” Or just let it go and everyone goes home in the warm embrace of illusion. That's not justice.
“So…Aaron Frankel, who was playing with you tonight? I just want to make sure I have the names right, you know, in case I say something that isn't actually accurate…” Frankel deferred the question to his bandmate Crooked Cowboy, who added the names of Callie Shields, Connor Thompson, and J.C. Rees of the Warlocks to the Highons roster. When asked, the silver spaceman refused to remove his mask and disappeared. A girl walked by and whispered, “Hey, that was my roommate and his friends. That was not Ariel Pink.” Doo doo hit the fan.
Yesterday, Schimpf said he was still “in the dark” about the Ariel Pink mystery. “But I don't care,” he said. “It was a great show and everyone liked it and had a good time.” In the end, his point was to celebrate L.A.'s black magic. That's what happens when you stir the pot.