Interview with Charlie Athanas, club designer and manager

Q: Is running a club like creating a world, or creating a piece of art?

Worlds. I was lucky enough to not only help run a club, but to co-design one on top of the beautiful bones of an existing building. It triggered all of my art impulses: from practicality, to creating a vibe, to how it looked and sounded. We created multiple worlds for the people who would experience the place very differently from each other.

First, the audience: Could you see from every spot? How did it sound? Was there room to dance? Was it a happy, dramatic space? We built a massive one-of-a-kind bar with beautiful wood inlaid guitars, and multimedia to show movies and laser shows while the band was performing. Then the performer’s world: Logical equipment load-in, easy access to power on stage, a huge stage to play, great sound and lights, comfortable green room, and excellent sound – having been a musician for many years I designed the artist experience from top to bottom.

The final world was the one inhabited by the staff. The hours were long and the place was huge – multiple bars with different bands, a restaurant, upstairs VIP rooms, hidden service tunnels, easy access to the bars and kitchens, along with well-placed sound booth with all the bells and whistles.

The art was making them all work seamlessly together and making the audience, the employees, and the entertainers all want to come back again.

Q: Are created realities easier or harder to live in than the real world?

The bathrooms are certainly easier to clean in a created reality! Part of the beauty of the real world is it’s full of rough edges, sharp corners, and spontaneity. When angry drunks fought with their partners in the real world, they would occasionally shatter the double glass doors and get tackled in a snowy street a block away. But a created reality can make glitter disappear in a snap. While it may seem easier to live in a created reality, reality is the smell of the dancing crowd, the body vibration of the bass, the caress and brutality of a shared physical experience. This reality wins for its uncontrollable, but memorable, elements.

Q: What’s the most unbelievable thing you’ve personally witnessed in a club, your own or another venue?

Two things:

Story one: Bauhaus [played] at Chicago’s Metro, and rumor had it that they asked the audience to bring their own instruments. The audience could go directly to the front edge of the stage (no security moat) and the stage would come up to your shoulders. Both Daniel Ash and David J handed their guitar and bass out in the audience to be played live. The guitar made its way back to where Dave Riley (Savage Beliefs, Big Black) and I were standing, and Dave proceeded to play the hell out of that guitar. A very memorable night.

Story two: The weekend dance circuit went from the Octogon to NEOs and finished at the notorious punk bar, EXIT. We were decked out in our usual leather jackets and leather pants, with cool buttons, piercings, and dyed hair. My college friend, J Byron Smith, had just moved up from San Antonio. Byron dressed in jeans, flannel shirt, and shitkicker cowboy boots looking every inch the Texas hayseed that he was. The unbelievable thing that we jealously witnessed was the oh-so-confident Byron down in the chainlink dance pit, like an exotic animal in a very wild zoo, surrounded by fawning beautiful punk girls with bright mohawks, torn stockings, and leather. They were completely entranced by this odd creature from seemingly another planet. Byron was easily the most punk person in EXIT that night or any night.

Q: Is Dark Park real?

Dark Park is real. It exists everywhere. In a parking lot in Detroit to cyberspace.  Borrowing a phrase from William Gibson, it is a “consensual hallucination” that can exist wherever fun takes root.

What do you think?

211 Points

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *