Click the photo for a slideshow of the action
Poopy Lungstuffing, The Annoysters, Styrofoam Duck, Muzak John, Kevin 11 The new SHFL location at 3801 Polk Street January 25, 2008
Better than: The month we had to endure without Super Happy Fun Land / Ultra Painful Torture Land
Download: Poopy Lungstuffing’s warbling yet infectious rendition of “Dream a Little Dream” on YouTube
Super Happy Fun Land co-founder Poopy Lungstuffing, a.k.a. Olivia Dvorak, is wearing a pair of knit bunny ears as she plucks her ukulele on stage and sends her shrill voice out to the people listening. Some nights she does this bit where she plays her tiny Hawaiian instrument and a kazoo while hula-hooping on stage, but tonight her hoop is missing.
No one seems to mind.
“It’s over there…somewhere,” she says, smiling cheerfully as she points to a distant, unpacked corner of the new Super Happy Fun Land.
And that’s how it went at the grand reopening of the Polk Street location; unfinished, missing a few pieces yet somehow no less super, happy or fun.
Doors opened and 8 p.m., and visitors from the strange land called reality started trickling in. Aside from the occasional newbie wearing an expression of “am I really supposed to be here?” most of the regulars from the old location in the Heights walked through the front door without skipping a beat.
What awaited them in the new location was a full art gallery featuring pieces from the Children’s Prison Art Project. Inside the main hall of Super Happy Fun Land nearly every surface is covered by more art. On the back wall a minimalist, cartoony guy with two heads tries to ease his arm around a cute girl with devil horns while another dude with a knife tries to eat his own leg. Further down the wall, a white, spectral apparition seems to be yelling angrily at a piece of tribal graffiti.
Also present in time for the reopening was massive stage comprised of old industrial shelving hanging around the building (the space use to be a typewriter factory) when Super Happy Fun Land moved in.
The new location was still missing the library, the stuffed animal and sock monkey collection, kid’s area and gravity-defying party games. Rest assured Super Happy regulars, co-founder Brian Arthur says the old mainstays are coming back along with a few new additions, like even more theater-style seating areas and shiny new bathrooms.
“By March we’ll be at 90 percent of what this place will be,” he said.
Muzak John, who has been performing incantations with a keyboard and a few effects pedals while wearing a Merlin-inspired wizard’s hat at the previous Super Happy Fun Land for years, simply looked around and smiled when asked what he thought of the new digs.
“What can I say? It’s Super Happy Fun Land,” he said.
John, Lungstuffing and a ragtag group of auditory expressionists gave visual arts the back seat as they took the super happy stage.
Politically-charged musician Kevin 11’s computer accompaniment “crapped out” on him shortly before his set but that didn’t stop him from striking a chord with his acoustic guitar and razor-sharp comments on the state of American society:
“We’re the world’s biggest thieves. We’re the world’s biggest thieves. Let’s take a ride on the Exxon Valdez.”
Hailing from Minneapolis, Styrofoam Duck injected Super Happy Fun Land with a dose of thrashing noise rock reminiscent of Sonic Youth at their bloodiest. Their explosive set simmered to a cool house jam as local musicians took the stage.
Rounding out the night, founders Arthur and Lungstuffing sat on stage rubbing Shiner Bock bottles against Styrofoam blocks as the experimental music parody band The Annoysters. Sure, the sound they produced was akin to scratching nails on a chalk board, but this place is where they’re free to do that.
“This is our space,” says Kevin 11, after asking the audience to hold a prayer in their hearts for the continued success of Super Happy Fun Land in its new home. An eruption of cheer and a few Texas-sized woo-hoos indicated his sentiment was shared.
That he’s experiencing Super Happy Fun Land for the first time doesn’t prevent Josh Melvin from recognizing its cultural importance or how relocating it to the warehouse district (“Where nobody’s going to fuck with you”) is a good safeguard against commercialization.
“It’s [Super Happy Fun Land], a means of doing what you believe in instead of what you get paid for,” he says.
Random Detail: Super Happy Fun Land’s temporary bathroom transcends normal bathrooms, thanks to a little help from Ralph Waldo Emerson and a score of other writers in a collection of American prose within arm’s reach.
By the way: I found Waldo. He’s hanging out near the Exit sign. – Jonathan McNamara