Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Higher Moth

Bisbee has become famous (notorious?) for its counterculture New Year's celebrations (think Buffalo Bill's Wild West meets Burning Man), and 2008 was one of the best yet as pyrotechnic performance troupe Flam Chen wowed the crowds with some advanced moth-matics.

For Tom and me, the festivities began at the home of friends Aaron and Megan about 40 miles away in Sierra Vista, where time slipped away so fast that we didn't make it to Old Bisbee until just before midnight. The historic district was jammed with revelers, but we lucked out to find a recently vacated parking space a few blocks from the celebration. As we dashed up stairs and down alleys, we could see a cluster of huge white orbs rising over City Park and hear the joyful noise of the crowd backed by a primitive pulsing beat.

We arrived just after the stroke of midnight to a phantasmagorical vision: Floating above the park was a performer in a Luna Moth costume, bouyed into the night sky by helium-filled balloons. From her mask two brilliant blue eyes glowed, and tiny matching lights flickered along the curve of her wings. On the stage below, stilt walkers also dressed as moths (with ostrich-feather antennae) waved flare-tipped staffs and twirled flaming pots on chains, drawing ecstatic shrieks from the crowd. Words don't do justice to this other-worldly spectacle, but you can get a taste of the experience from this video shot and edited by Tom and posted to YouTube for your enjoyment:

What we didn't know until reading this morning's paper is that this was a pro bono performance. Flam Chen's fee for a slightly more elaborate "typical" show would have been $20,000, but they performed free of charge because troupe leaders Nadia (who portrayed the moth) and Paul Weir have enjoyed past New Year's celebrations in Bisbee. Costs were defrayed by a grant acquired by the Bisbee Arts Commission that financed the finale balloons and the helium that floated them.

So thanks, Flam Chen, for helping our little town ring in 2008 in wildly psychedelic style. We'll be counting the 365 days until Bisbee welcomes you back!