Dali Land has been pitched as the jewel in the FRINGE WORLD crown, with promises of artwork by the surrealist master Salvador Dali and avant-garde performances from bands, burlesque troupes, and DJs. Opening night was celebrated with the Surrealist Ball, a VIP event for the public, which was touted as an “unforgettable evening of food, wine, art and decadence”. Unfortunately, the ball did not quite live up to expectations.
Admittedly it was so hot and crowded we didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the art and it wasn’t as well-lit as it needed to be. As a big Dali fan, I would like to go back during the day to fully appreciate it (even though some of the works on display are prints not originals). There are also other surrealist icons being exhibited, like Rene Magritte and Man Ray, plus contemporary works by current and local artists. There were all manner of installations around the venue too, like a live tarantula who some brave people gave a little tickle. But, the real wow factor actually came from the crowd, who went all out with their surrealist outfits! So many twirly moustaches!
It’s fair to say that with any new venture, particularly of this scale, there are bound to be a few teething problems. Having shown up half an hour after doors opened, we were offered a glass of bubbles but missed out on the food service. Sadly, those who arrived later than us even missed out on their free drink. Speaking of drinks, the bars were overwhelmed all evening and it took about 20 minutes to be served. On an extremely hot night, thirsty people were turning into angry people and there were various verbal altercations exchanged. The heat was definitely raising tempers. Plus, with nowhere to sit, my friends and I ended up perching under a staircase on the nightclub floor just to rest our feet.
Despite the heat and the queues, the atmosphere was fun. Abbe May performed an hour long set including hits like Taurus Chorus, Karmageddon and Design Desire. Her cover of Ginuwine’s Pony remains a firm favourite. How she didn’t absolutely melt on stage I’m not sure! We were also treated to a couple of tastes of the amazing Club Briefs, the boylesque group currently performing in Dali Land as part of FRINGE. If you get a chance, go see them. They are incredible, not to mention more than a little bit sexy.
Shortly after, the ever irreverent Magnus Danger Magnus, our MC for the night, led the entire crowd upstairs to the Surrealist Salon. This was definitely the jewel we had been looking for! The fresh air was welcomed as we stepped onto the rooftop, greeted by a brass band, astroturf, a few little bars, and places to sit – heaven. The big stage is going to make for an amazing venue to watch local bands over the coming month.
The tone of the night evolved into the surreal splendour that had been wanting as performance artist Essie Foxglove took to the stage and birthed herself from a little cocoon. Local outfit Moana followed, dressed in otherworldly attire, playing avant-garde rock with two golden Les Sataniques women (naked except for body paint) accompanying, dancing hypnotically either side of the stage. It was bewitching. After an hour of music, the inimitable Ash Baroque sashayed on stage for a rendition of Antony and the Johnsons’ Cripple and The Starfish.
The crowd had started to thin out, and our feet were sore. I was sad to miss Doublethink Prism as they look very intriguing, but sometimes you need to call an end to a night while on a high, before you enter struggle town.
Ultimately the Surrealist Ball was not the night we expected, and there is definitely room for improvement if it happens again, which I sincerely hope it does. But, overall the night was entertaining, and The Surrealist Salon was a hit. I recommend a visit during Fringe to catch any number of bands and DJs playing there.
Photos by Owen Gregory