Weird shit goes down during a full moon. Emergency rooms regularly report significant spikes in activity. Police blotters are crammed with all sorts of strange, nefarious doings. Dogs are said to be twice as likely to bite humans. Michael J. Fox turns into a slam-dunking, van-surfing, beer-can-chugging teenaged werewolf. While perhaps apocryphal, the abnormalities associated with lunar cycles are so common that we derive some of our best terms for kookiness from them. For example, lunacy.
For the past two years in Burlington, that celestial craze has been fostered by Mildred Moody’s Full Moon Masquerade. The hedonistic soirée has occurred, with few exceptions, roughly every 29 days in various locations around town. Whether at its original home, the late restaurant and bar Parima, at the diminutive Halflounge or, most recently, at Nectar’s and Club Metronome, when the moon is at its most robust, Queen City revelers have known exactly where to go to celebrate in subversive style.
This Saturday, January 26, the moon will once again swell to its most brilliant. And, as usual, the Full Moon Masquerade will offer a decidedly unusual showcase of local music and art, from face painting to chair massage to performance art to DJ sets to — wait for it — a crew of Vermont musicians recreating Snoop Doggy Dogg’s seminal 1993 debut album, Doggystyle, in its entirety, with a live band. This month’s installment will also see the Masquerade debut at its new home, Signal Kitchen. The proceeds from the show will benefit DJ A-Dog in his ongoing battle with leukemia.
“It going to be pretty wild,” says Scott Mangan in a recent conversation at a Burlington coffeehouse.
Mangan, 33, is the leader of the local rock band Mildred Moody and the founder of Full Moon Masquerade. The New Jersey native says he first got the idea for the Masquerade 10 years ago, while attending a full-moon party in New York City hosted by visual artist Alex Grey. Mangan describes a scene that would likely be familiar to anyone who’s attended the FMM parties in Burlington.
“You had this large room with bands playing, trip-hop bands, a country band,” he recalls. “Then, on the side, there were meditation bowls and artworks hanging, and then there was another room that had more of a lounge feel with people mingling.”
At the height of the party, Mangan recalls Grey calling for his attendees’ attention. The room hushed as the artist led the group in a communal meditation.
“The place just went silent,” he says. “I was blown away. I was amazed that the room was so locked in.” Then Mangan realized there was a full moon. “It struck me that there really was something to that.”
Mangan decided he wanted to recreate Grey’s party himself. But bouncing from New York to Philadelphia to Los Angeles, he says he never quite found the right mix of place and community to pull it off. That is, until he got to Burlington four years ago.
Mildred Moody’s Full Moon Masquerade officially debuted at Parima on January 18, 2011. But the parties really began as a series of smaller gatherings that Mangan hosted at his Old North End apartment. He would invite friends over on the full-moon night and they would just hang out, often accompanied by Mangan or other musician playing acoustic. After a few sessions, he decided to transfer that intimate vibe to a larger setting. Mangan approached local musician Joe Adler, Parima’s booking agent at the time, with a grand plan for taking over the space one night a month.
“I told him I wanted to use the entire space, from the stage to the balcony to the lounge,” says Mangan. “And that I wanted to host bands and artists and massage therapists and fortune tellers … I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy.”
“I didn’t think he was crazy at all,” responds Adler in a recent email. “Just that [the idea] needed some fine tuning.”
Adler stresses that the key to developing the party was striking the right balance among art, music and performance art. He says it took them a few tries to find the right mix. But once they did, the Masquerade began to take on a life of its own.
Part of that vitality was due to the venue itself. The Thai-stilt-house-meets-ski-lodge aesthetic of Parima lent the event a certain seductive charm. That charm was likely heightened by the presence of live-body-painting troupe the Human Canvas and its seminude models, a staple at the FMM through its first two years.
“It really was the perfect place to start,” says Mangan.
Parima closed in the fall of 2011 and reopened as Three Needs, leaving the Masquerade in limbo. After a one-night stand at the Halflounge, the party began rotating between Nectar’s and Club Metronome. Adler and Mangan credit Nectar’s talent buyer Alex Budney with giving them the freedom to pursue the artistic vision of the Masquerade.
“The whole crew at Nectar’s became like family,” says Mangan.
While the decidedly more professional environs of Nectar’s and Metronome were a boon for certain aspects of the parties — most notably sound and light design — the conventional club aesthetic of both rooms gave the masquerade a, well, more conventional feel. Though better attended than ever, and drawing bigger-name artists, the parties became less furtive destination and more marquee event.
Mangan says the move to the speakeasy-esque Signal Kitchen is partly an effort to regain that original subversive aura. In keeping with that idea, he adds that partygoers will be required to wear masks and, possibly, follow a dress code — no sneakers, no baseball caps.
“It’s supposed to be different,” says Mangan. “The idea is that we’re setting the intention that we’re all in this one place at this one time. The little cliques in town, people who only go to the [Other Place], or only go to the Radio Bean or Red Square, we get elements of all those groups. So whether you subscribe to astrology or believe the full moon has some power over you, it’s a place to gather and have a good time.”
So does Mangan believe in the mystique of the full moon?
“Well,” he says with a wry grin, “I know a lot of couples who started dating because they met at the Full Moon Masquerade.”
Mildred Moody’s Full Moon Masquerade takes place this Saturday, January 26, at Signal Kitchen in Burlington, 9 p.m. $10 suggested donation. All proceeds to benefit DJ A-Dog.