Photo: Michael Loria
Photo: Michael Loria

OPUS 1: Surreal as the Succession of Days

Before the Chrysalis Stage, Enchanted Forest and Lightning Cloud, one had to pass beneath an arch reading “The Journey Begins.” And thus it began, though for such a commanding piece of signage one might have expected a longer journey in duration. This was the OPUS 1 event at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Saturday, billed as a “surreal sensory journey.”

I arrived a few hours before sunset. At this time, the Hearth Stage, (i.e., Merriweather’s mainstage), was modestly attended. Someone onstage performed an improvised song. I pressed on from the Hearth, under the “Journey” arch and into Culinary Village, which looked enticing but was expensive. I patted the white chocolate macadamia nut Clif Bar in my pocket and, again, moved on. After Culinary Village was the Chrysalis Stage. Most of the crowd was gathered here. There was plenty of space to sit on the grass, and it seemed nice to be well-monied enough to have a grilled cheese from the nearby food truck.

Not much for pep bands though, I moved on to the Enchanted Forest. But before entering the woods, one had to pass beneath another threshold; this time instead of a sign, it looked to be Sauron’s other, lazier eye. If any journey were to begin, I felt it would be here. The eye had its own soundtrack, or sound effect rather, and after nightfall its shimmering blue light would be something to watch.

The lines to three separate installations converged beneath the eye; one led to the Lightning Cloud, another to a green screen labeled the Immersive Projection Program and a third to an egg-shaped installation called the Mutual Wave Machine. Eager to avoid lines, I kept moving, except I slowed my pace upon noticing the end of the tour.

Tucked behind the Egg Installation was another spot on the map labeled “Hibridos.” It was shaped like a bonfire space, only in the center of the circled-up logs was a table where a few performers were setting up. Their space was quiet, and I felt drawn to it. As I came over, one of the performers turned to meet me. He was smoking a clove cigarette but asked me if I had any rolling papers to share. No dice; I failed him. 

He was handsome in a wiry sort of way and had a heavy French accent. We sat and chatted awhile. I recorded our conversation but the information conveyed was mostly programmatic, with the most interesting part inaudible (he stuck his tongue out at me in a cheeky sort of way). His name was Vincent Moon and for his installation, he would VJ (video jockey) footage he shot over the past year in the Amazon, while his partner would make music from the field recordings they had done there. (I wouldn’t realize it until the following day, but Moon was actually the founder of a video podcast series called “Concerts à emporter,” which I’ve followed for years. Small world.) 

The next couple of hours were packed. On the Chrysalis Stage, the Brooklyn Raga Massive performed Terry Riley’s In C, and then the Sun Ra Arkestra put on a bombastic show. The performers I met put on their installation made from footage shot in the Amazon. And back at the Hearth Stage, EXO-TECH was performing for two or three ecstatic dancers. The EXO-TECH performance was a bit loud for some of the kids playing tag on the lawn – they covered their ears and hoofed it back to the Enchanted Forest.

For these kids, I imagine OPUS 1 was a surreal experience, though I imagine it had as much to do with the new spaces to explore and the number of other kids there as anything else. But for us adults wandering through the anticlimactically small installation setup, it was just a free evening in a pleasant place with neat things to see.

For more information about OPUS 1’s installations, click here.

Merriweather Post Pavilion: 10475 Little Patuxent Pky. Columbia, MD; 410-715-5550; www.merriweathermusic.com