Standing in line awaiting entry to “Blade Rave,” I turn to my old drama school buddy Nick and shrug, “This is a pretty great lead-up to Saturday Comic Con for you, huh.” He looks up from the ticket that reads “NY Comic Con Afterparty” with an affirmative smile that would reappear at many points during the night and evolve with each passing hour. As we excitedly dash down the halls of Terminal 5, passing through walls covered in protective plastic wrap, we know that what we’re about to experience will be unlike any party we’ve ever been to.
This event couldn’t have been more hyped from the get go. BBQ films (the production team) described it as “an immersive screening of Blade (II) inside the film’s iconic vampire nightclub.” These days, anytime you put ‘immersive’ in the subtitle of your event, (especially amidst the artistically innovative landscape of NYC) you’re already setting yourself up for high expectations because there are already several other acclaimed immersive works still running there (Punch Drunk’s “Sleep No More” as well as Third Rail Projects’ “And Then She Fell” to name a couple).
With this in mind, the first order of business was getting a feel for the architectural elements of the venue. With almost all of Terminal 5’s space in use, we had a lot of ground to cover. The bottom floor held the main dance floor (which would later become part of the ‘splatter area’). On the next level above the dance floor, there was a private bar and table space for VIP ticket holders. This area also included a photo-op point in front of the infamous ‘Blood Bath’ banner. This is where ravers could stand behind mock-up turn tables and give the impression that they were in fact DJ-ing the party. The top floor was the roof, which served as a make shift smoking/viewing area, where Blade II was running continuously.
Terminal 5 matched the stripped down elements of the night club in the movie pretty closely, and this accuracy really emphasized the vampire-clad fans that were raging all around us. From a costume stand point, most of the crowd had gone all-out in some way. There were vampires of every stripe, as well as some Blade-looking vampire hunters in the crowd. One particularly spectacular version of this was Blade sporting light up nunchucks that he flipped effortlessly as he weaved through the crowd.
As the night progressed, clips from the film played between performances by crowd-pumping vampire MCs, as well as demonstrations of true sword skill by Sword Class NYC and the constant presence (both in the crowd and on the stage) of in-character movers from The Dance Cartel. The curation of all of these elements flowed pretty seamlessly, with the previously mentioned content happening in the natural breaks of each DJ’s set. Even the mention of the Red Cross, which got a dollar of every ticket sold, was referenced in sync with the live Blade universe we’d all found ourselves in.
As far as the DJ sets were concerned, each group brought their own vibe to the setting. From atmospheric and experimental sounds to pulse-pounding, thrilling bass beats, the evening went through a steady build that had anticipation mounting for the main event. The Crystal Method definitely stood out in this respect. It was like someone had just lit an auditory fire on the stage and everyone was migrating to get closer to its vibrant glow. The excitement reached such a height that after a while Nick and I ditched our drinks and made a break for a permanent residence on the dance floor.
And then it happened. From all around us we heard the clang of police-line type barriers hitting the floor. Event organizers stood stoically around the perimeter and as the MCs heralded the opening of the blood-gates, the entire crowd in the ‘splatter zone’ was literally drenched.
After that moment it’s somewhat hard to describe what happened exactly. There was something beyond the senses, or rather something primally connected to ALL the senses, that took place. The whole floor seemed to have become one consciousness that pulsed and thrashed and collided in this massive all-out blood bath. Nick later told me that for a split second, he truly believed he was a vampire with arms outstretched and mouth open to catch the raining banquet. I couldn’t help but confess later that for a few moments, I’d felt the same way. It was in this climax that the production truly earned its ‘immersive’ status. Speaking to one of the dancers outside after the show, we talked about the voracity of the crowd he saw from the stage, and how he ached to jump into the fray and let loose himself.
Nick and I agreed that our chief criticism of the night was that the bloodbath didn’t take place earlier. Though fully invested in the ‘look’ of the evening, there was a sense of hesitation among many of the rave-goers, something held back. After the showering took place though, all inhibitions were gone and the place took on an otherworldly energy that would have been great to explore for longer. All in all though, a truly incredible immersive experience was shared thanks to BBQ films and the eclectic group of talented artists they’d assembled.
Above all, it’s unfortunate that so many people won’t be able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. Though it received a lot of criticism for its outlandish goals on social media, everyone at the event left with smiles on their faces. If somehow people could get past the odd theme, this would make for one hell of an international tour.
For a look at some truly incredible photos from the event, you can go here.
Image via JoeMyGod