It was a setup that should have required advanced night vision to observe it properly.
The instruments on the stage were familiar enough—a sampling machine, effect pedals, and a floor tom all sat at the front of stage—but a black sheet was strewn across a drum kit in the background to make it less conspicuous, and the only light in the room came from a floor-placed desk lamp.
It was apparent to anyone in the audience unfamiliar with Bryan Sutherland’s psychedelic electronic act Zoo Owl that they were in for something special at WL14. But they couldn’t have seen this coming.
Sutherland kicked things off slow: an atmospheric buildup from the sampler; some skin beating on the tom.
But then things took a left turn. Sutherland started worshipping a tall glass of water, making motions requesting people to gaze upon it in its clear liquid form. Then the glass itself lit up. Sutherland drank, and what happened onstage was a descent into surrealist propaganda. Sutherland dipped below his sampler and reemerged with a light in his mouth, his head turning like a sentinel, casting light on parts of the audience as if searching for a transgressor to scold. In time, he descended again, returning this time with goggles that had LEDs for lenses.
To the crowd, Sutherland addressed the eyewear as possessing the power to do “the opposite of what your eyes do,” instead facilitating “inner vision.”
He pulled out a laser field projector, and from there, Zoo Owl had reign over the crowd with a control so total there was at once a dedicated crew dancing along to his echoing trance spell while others were content to let the laser beams shoot into their faces and engage the alpha waves in their brains.
No one could have been sure what Zoo Owl’s motivation was in all of this surreal theatre, but we can presume that, whatever he was going for, it worked.
Originally published by Aesthetic Magazine.