Urban Therapy (Vol. 2)
Studio Robazzo has been host to a variety of events already in our brief 3-month tenure. We have hosted art gallery nights, fundraisers, workshops and parties, and pride ourselves on the versatility of our offerings. Two weeks ago, we pushed the limits of what we thought was possible in the space, to (spoiler alert!) great success. The scale and speed of this transformation was unlike anything I had ever seen. The yoga studio became a dance floor, our meeting room the DJ booth, and the White Void was a multi-coloured crystal playground. Thanks to the concentrated efforts of the Urban Therapy crew, our space grew artistically, aesthetically, and sonically.
Urban Therapy, or UR|TH for short is a collective of visual, multimedia and sonic artists in and around Victoria, BC. Much more than that though, this is a family that gathers together to create unique experiences for the shared enjoyment of the bass loving, hip shaking community at large. Drawing from the urban environment for inspiration, UR|TH is both a reaction against, and an exploration of life in the concrete jungle; an exercise in balance between grounded, earthy sounds and bright, explosive lighting and high-flying art. Not only do they boast a vast array of practical skills in creative lighting, installation art, projection mapping and event organization, but they also bring with them an ability to compassionately and effectively run an event. The dedication and love of the UR|TH team is self-evident in the quality of events they produce, and the crowd of fun-loving, beautiful dancing people they bring with them.
I didn’t really know what to expect, until a truck rolled up at 4 hours to doors to unload some very familiar sound equipment. PK Sound is responsible for much of the top quality audio engineering in this province, and I’d encountered them several times before at outdoor music festivals: always chest-rattling, toe-tingling, satisfying bass experiences. Sound check shook some windows and loosed some dust from the rafters in preparation for the night’s festivities. We watched on, wide-eyed as limits were tested, and yet the sound of passing traffic was enough to mask the throbbing bass just meters away from the street. We were in some kind of magical sonic deadzone, just on the borders of the cacophony within. Lights were rigged, holes in the electrical system were patched, levels were adjusted, and the finishing touches were put on the space. Performers, crew, sound, art, and food all assembled in the nick of time.
Early birds were greeted by the visually stunning installation built for the White Void by Toni Emp, as well as the sounds of OKPK upstairs. The night began modestly but took off quickly, seeing us well over halfway to capacity before midnight. The crowd filled in and hugs were dispersed freely. The dance floor populated with swirls, flails and two-stepping. Art was supplied by Kristofer Ray, with digital mapping by Arya Hawker and Toni Emp. The space really transformed thanks to the dynamic visuals occurring throughout our two floors. Toni’s sculptures came alive in the White Void with shifting light patterns, as well as entrancing aerial silk performances by the lovely Joy Weick. On the top floor guests were greeted by their own projected reflections, thanks to some visionary wizardry by Toni and Arya. Kris’s paintings flanked the DJs in ever-shifting colours through morphing projection mapping, flowing in tune with the music throbbing from the speakers.
The night flowed on: OKPK gave way to Hi-Q Soundsystem, delighting the crowd with live trumpet and bass samples, mixed with dubby reggae beats to keep hips rolling and feet moving. Around this time, the bathroom line grew to monumental lengths, making for interesting line-up conversations. There was a consistent theme of wide-eyed bewilderment in the five-minute friends I was making: “what IS this place?” was a recurring question, while we all waited impatiently. It’s a hard question to answer. I have seen the space transform from a multifaceted business, wellness and art sanctuary to an experimental urban cultural retreat and back in less than 24 hours. There is something about its amorphous nature that inspires and sparks vision; something that I will probably be trying to define for the remainder of our tenure.
The tone shifted as the crowd’s attention was diverted to the White Void for another free-falling performance by Joy. Ebola Soulja took on the decks, spinning us through a hard-hitting set of dark jungle and drum & bass. The sounds wibbled and wobbled on, and the dance floor was overtaken by high-knees, wheeling arms and bobbing heads. As we pushed capacity, the interior became like a sauna and so exterior smoke breaks became more drawn out, taking in the clear summer air while PK’s vibrations spilled out of our open windows like quaking molasses.
Twentytwo:22 took to the stage around 1AM, hyping the crowd for the remainder of the night/morning ahead. By this time my energy was fading, and I was enjoying a high-quality sit in the VIP back room, when the music cut and a voice announced: “Hey everybody… so… the cops are out front…” in the milliseconds between this sentence and the following one, my heart sank in to my stomach, and my stomach climbed in to my throat… “They’re looking for someone named Steve [name changed to protect the not-so-innocent]. Turns out Steve left his dog in his car, so if you know him please send him to someone in the UR|TH crew. And, guys, don’t leave dogs in cars! Not cool. Ok, party on.” The music came back up, my heart started beating again, and I became dimly aware of my breath returning. Big, big shout-outs to everyone involved in that situation (except Steve. Come on, Steve.) for your professional composure, and to the Victoria PD for genuinely looking out for our (and our canine friends) best interests.
With a newfound assurance that No One was interested in shutting down our party under any thinly veiled pretence, the night continued in top form, with Twentytwo:22 taking us well in to the wee hours, and Arktic of the UR|TH crew rounding out the night with some lush, velvety tracks that only faded as the sky began to lighten and the dance floor dwindled. By 4:45AM the last stragglers had departed, and the crew could begin cleanup in earnest. Remarkably, the space was squeaky clean inside and out within the hour, and I faced a happy, burnt-out, glowing but exhausted crew, to thank them for an amazing experience. Again, I’d like to thank the Urban Therapy crew from the bottom of my Junglist soul for an unreal experience that baffled, enthralled, and superseded all my expectations. I look forward immensely to our next partnership with this blossoming team of inspiring individuals.
My night ended with a final mop and a bleary-eyed wander around the space; speechless at the scale and speed of the metamorphosis I had just witnessed. After a pensive sit on a comically large beanbag chair, staring up through Toni’s installation at the ever brightening sky, I finally decided it was time to go. To leave behind the three-dimensional canvas in favour of my own bed, ideas and inspirations darting through my head despite the unquestionably burnt-out state of my neurones.
I locked the door behind me with heavy eyes and a light heart: exhausted, but renewed.
Shout outs to all the contributors who made this night (and this post) possible. In case you missed the in-text links, here they are again.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Melissa Hankinson (aka MHphoto) - special thanks to you for letting us use your lovely pictures!
VISUALS etc: Toni Emp & Arya Hawker
AERIAL SILKS: Joy Weick