Sober at High Brow (7/31/15)

Undisclosed, subterranean, somewhere in America. Electrocuted Truth Serumpassed like bags of popcorn. No flammables: the only combustibles permitted would be bellies…from laugher. Actual popcorn was also provided, kettle caramel, delicious. “Let’s be cool” was our mantra, Lydia Popovich (HaterTuesday, general awesomeness) was our guru, a generous and impressively cogent host, guiding the show, billed as a social experiment. Behind the bar—and soundboard—Big Wednesday’s Jeremy Wheat served sippables and samples of songs famously sampled. These two, that night, were opposite yet synergistic hemispheres of a brainchild called High Brow, ushering an evening that slunk slowly, smooth as silk. A sweat lodge turned treehouse as in the air as a Muir redwood. A subdued, dank den of prolonged peculiarities and perpetrated perplexities. I felt lifted purely by presence.


“Not to be an asshole but I was promised some hash oil” 


I’m not good zonked. Despite a great high history that includes origins tucked away outside of the Punch, steam rollers at Sylvan House, and edibles in Humboldt (the longest 24 hours of my life), I never took to it as a mode, mood, style or regiment. Too sleepy too fast, blabbing like an idiot, disturbing time losses. Booze is my preference, though, in tandem I’m destroyed, with neither I can effectively write—long overdue—show reviews. High Brow being High Brow, a hotbox of hilarity, made it extremely difficult to maintain uncompromised. Even if its fuel isn’t pushed on you, the intoxication pushes through you, an inescapable atmosphere, making everything noticeably “woah”. And, High Brown being High Brow proved more compelling than indulgence.


“I thought I was on TV, then I remembered where I was”


Fucking with people who are fucked up is as true an entertainment model for a comedy show as it was in 8th grade at your friend’s house with lax (i.e. negligible) parents. High Brow presents an obstacle course of mind traps, interruptions and prompts positioned to trip up the trippiness, play with paranoia. It was not intended maliciously in the slightest, but not entirely benevolent either, perhaps overstimulating, overwhelming, yet essentially harmless fun (with innately funny people).


“You guys ready to suck dick for weed in a plastic bag?” 


Comedians attempted to stick to the script, reciting material, handicapped by circumstance. Others floated helplessly along, reactive and rambling. One boisterous spirit inquired to us (and the heavens):


“So many questions! Why is he wearing Jordans at a construction site!? So many questions! Isn’t that dude too old to be riding a scooter?! So many questions! What is the WiFi password?! Seriously, what’s the WiFi password?”


A luxuriously dreadlocked individual had such a bubbly air to them, seasoning their set with rhetorical “huh”’s as a matter of punctuation and conjunction, bridging one absurd lewdness to the next.


“Anybody else get too high before my set?”


All the while, Lydia kept the pace brisk, saving the show from diminishing returns. She always had the perfect ping or exit point to enhance the already abundant hilarity. Jeremy: pour, play, comment, chortle.


“I’m not fucking sorry!“


This edition of High Brow honored (Sir) Michael D’Bey’s birth. Most adults celebrate their birthdays with a pricier-than-usual dinner, or getting pumped full of free drinks. D’Bey celebrated by holding court in our hazy speakeasy, warping the evening to his wiles, engaging the theme with Kanyesque microphone-jacking, relaying red-third-eye philosophy like, “this [show] isn’t slow, this is just life at real speed.”


Birthday aside, in keeping with High Brow being a social experiment, Michael D’Bey was perfect for the show, the quintessential mad scientist. Waxy, poetic bursts, rolling with whatever’s in the air and ether.  A lot of his proverbs sounded off the cuff, indistinguishable from being pre-rolled or freshly lit. “Death is too sweet for some people,” he proclaimed in a darker turn, before relating, “I’m not a bad father, I’m just a horrible person.” None of D’Bey’s windings wavered. He compelled in confession, maintained swagger in nihilism. Eyes opened wide, a knowing, roguish smile, Michael D’Bey made it feel like he saw—and laughed—through the bullshit, even his own.


It’s a long, late show tho. Even in my embattled sobriety I was reeling, cross-faded between exhaustion and impatience. But the show went on: the audience didn’t bail nor were made restless by the lingering loquaciousness. It was as if everybody wanted to sleepover in the sweet, shared, safe space. Or maybe they were stuck. It’s hard to say. After the show I hitched my wagon to some Oaklanders: Arinell Pizza and hysterically laughing over a riff on “Historically Black Community Colleges”, all the way across the Bay Bridge.


With regular clientele, and a perennial, cultivated chill, there’s no telling how high High Brow will get, how far it will go. There’s also no telling how many unnecessary puns and obvious innuendos I’ve force fed this review. All I know is that the November 2016 edition, if California gets its shit together, is going to be glorious, (ya dig?). Until then, it’s on a need to know basis. Stay up and be cool.


-oj | Patreon

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