When I was going to university in the city, I used to love going for long walks and listening to music. Even now I associate certain parts of the city with specific songs – the Hopetoun Bridge with Will Downing, the Symonds Street Underpass with Faith No More and the now-sadly-departed King’s Arms with Miles Davis’ ‘Freddie Freeloader’. Whatever changes may happen to me or to this city, there are places in the CBD that will forever be ingrained in my mind thanks to specific songs.
Long story short, Silent Disco City Walk was an experience made for this reviewer.
The format is very user-friendly. You are given headphones linked to pre-selected playlist of songs. Interspersed between the songs are short skits featuring the voices of your left and right brain, debating the benefits and drawbacks of spontaneity and planning.
A small contingent of guides were on hand to help people stay on the route, and make the participants feel more at ease about dancing up a staircase or through a foodcourt. Silent Disco Citywalk has run four different routes at this year’s Fringe – the one I took went from Aotea Square through Myers Park up to Karangahape Road.
The places were familiar, the songs were (mostly) familiar, and yet the combination of the two was a completely new experience.
The choice of songs played off their respective locations – Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ accompanied our journey through the K Road foodcourt and up endless flights of stairs to the roof of a parking structure; the journey down into the street was accompanied by David Bowie’s ‘Modern Love’, a song which always works best when you are galloping from place to place; our stroll across one of the cycle ways was soundtracked by the Rolling Stones’ Miss You (we also heard Queen, Prince and Bjork).
At no point did it feel repetitive – the route and music are constantly changing and shifting. At one point the music died away and a perfectly-timed busker with a guitar popped up in the middle of the group to sing the next song acoustically.
What was most fascinating was watching the other people in group – aside myself and a mate, the group was mostly made up of families with teen kids. The speed with which everyone got on board with the concept was probably the best part of the show. Nobody was trying to undermine the experience with snark or cheap jokes.
During the first few minutes of the show, I will admit that I had a few contrarian thoughts of my own – but they were quickly repressed. The world is filled with cheap cynicism – but it is a poor substitute for genuine emotional expression.
What Silent Disco City Walk provides is a space for release, and an opportunity to reflect and simply enjoy the pleasure of being present in the moment.