ESP, Medium Well:
A Journey to the Center of the Mindless
Somebody had hung dozens of blank fliers at the record store kiosk. 8 ½ by 11 white sheets of paper. They covered up most of the other fliers and, at first, I considered it a bad prank. But after pondering them for a few minutes I felt compelled to investigate. I took one down, brought it home and looked at it under a black light. Nothing. Not even a watermark.
I went back to the record store the next day and asked the clerk, “What is the point here?”
“Those are the Mediums. They're playin' tonight at Milo 's Warehouse on 32nd and Blake. Gonna go?”
“The Mediums. Like mild, medium, hot?”
“No, like, they're psychic conduits.”
“Hendrix, Morrison, Janis, Keith Moon, Cobain, Lennon, Otis Redding, Elvis Fuckin' Presley, Mama Cass, Lisa Left-Eye Lopez. They channel ‘em all. They're mega.”
I went to the show. Warehouse. Chilly, even on this warm summer night. The room was big and dark and full of scaffolding. The doorman took my five dollars, handed me a ticket stub and shushed me before I could ask.
The audience sat cross-legged on the cold concrete floor. I sat like a fat, old man close to the exit. The audience was watching the Mediums: Two men and two women sitting on folding chairs on stage made of dozens flattened and stacked cardboard boxes. They didn't have any musical instruments and there was no PA. Far up the wall, wind whistled through broken window panes. Creepy. Everyone watched the band and the band gazed at the ceiling. Occasionally, one of the musicians would twitch or swing an arm in a spastic air guitar motion. They were sweating like Georgia peaches in a clay oven.
Two minutes. Three minutes. The people sitting near me tapped their toes silently. The girl next to me gasped. I looked at the band. Listened. Sometimes they breathed. Suddenly, as if they'd been told good news after a bad day, the band exhaled and relaxed and the audience erupted in wild applause. Ten seconds later the Mediums were taut and sweaty and twitching again. The audience was rapt. This repeated. Five minutes of silence and then relaxation and applause then tension.
Water dripped from a leaky pipe. A siren approached, passed and receded. My mind flirted with flashbacks of my tour in ‘ Nam . Enough. Knees creaking, I stood up and went to the alley. A young white woman stood in the shadow of a black van, smoking a cigarette. She stared at me. I stared at her. She stared at me. Inside the warehouse, the crowd applauded. The woman stared at me. Subtly and slowly, she shook her head.
I broke the silence, “What's the point?”
“They're the Mediums. You don't listen with your ears. You listen with your mind.”
“The music comes straight from Valhalla . They're channeling the spirits of Rock and Roll's greatest musicians. The guy on the left is Jimi Hendrix. The guy in the middle is Elvis. The short, cute girl is John Entwistle. The blonde is Billie Holiday. Let your mind go and you'll hear it.”
“Sounds stupid. Wanna sneak off with me? I hear there's a party at the Circle A Ranch.”
“I don't find you attractive.” She cocked her ear sideways, “They're playing my favorite song. Goodbye.” She flicked her cigarette into the night and went back inside.
A few minutes later I followed her and sat clumsily on the floor. I removed my ticket stub from my pocket, considered asking for a refund. I stayed and sat through two encores and didn't hear a sound except for the clapping of the audience.
The show ended and the musicians smiled and bowed. The audience stretched their legs and stood up. I saw the cigarette lady and asked her to introduce me to the band.
She led me to the short, cute girl. They stared at each other. The short, cute girl nodded and turned to look at me. She smelled of musky sweat and her eyes were bloodshot. My friend, Cigarette Lady, whispered, “Don't speak. Just think. You're conversing with John Entwistle.”
Here's a transcript of my interview with John Entwistle:
A few days later, I went back to the record store. The clerk was behind the counter, reading a rock and roll magazine. He didn't look up as I approached him. I said, “The Mediums are the dumbest act I've ever seen.”
“You still have your ticket stub?”
I wear my trousers for weeks at a time and I throw nothing away. I dug through my pockets until I found it.
In the light of day it looked different. “Ticket stub.”
I handed it to him and, without even picking off the lint, he plopped it into his mouth and swallowed.
He turned a page in the magazine. “I don't buy all that telepathic crap either, but the acid…it's mega.”
--Strapping Danforth, June, 2003