Cultura Club

As any economist worth his weight in T-bills will tell you, when entering into any risky venture, it's best to do a cost-benefit analysis.

Like if you're some aspiring counterculturist, say, local rabble-rouser Phil Freedom, and you're organizing a boffo benefit, it might behoove you to weigh your expenses and possible profit, to ensure that, you know, you're actually raising funds.

Then again, Freedom probably didn't major in economics.

The 29-year-old political activist figgers he's deep in the red after financing this weekend's Culturautonoma festival at the Icehouse, which -- ironically enough -- aims to help secure nonprofit status (and possibly new digs) for the Autonomous Learning Center, a multi-use culture facility within the Thought Crime art gallery.

"I think I pretty much got all the costs nailed down," Freedom says. "But I didn't pay rent last month, and I don't even want to think about this month."

Freedom's not the only one sacrificing, as a vast array of entertainers are performing gratis. A mass of multi-genre musicians who'll provide the soundtrack for the bizarre bazaar include the Drunken Immortals, Antedote, the Drop Outs, Jetomi, Bodhisattva, Sonorous, and Kindread. There'll also be dancing exhibitions by Domba and Grupo Ax Capoeira; live art by Serk, Typoe, and Dumper; and promises of more "mischief and mayhem."

Freedom's already squared away the most important part, forking over $165 to both the city and state for a beer-slinging permit, promising that several kegs will be tapped for the event. Those looking for a mind-fuck of a different sort can participate in local counterculture artist Michael 23's "Sensory Experience Chamber," a 30-foot-square interactive multimedia device, where the self-described "thought criminal" and several henchmen will assault all five senses of volunteers in an attempt to induce an epiphany of sorts.

"We'll use the aesthetic of brainwashing, but without a specific program, creating kind of a generic initiation rite. It plays with the idea of mind control, where people will experience a transition for themselves," explains Michael 23. "We want to get people to control their own sensory experience and recognize they can control what they put in our bodies."

But the fete's more about inclusiveness than indoctrination, says Freedom, who hopes to cross-pollinate all the different subcultures in the community "to celebrate what we all have in common."

The rest of his expenses read like some counterculture ad for MasterCard. Fliers and promotional materials: $200. Municipal fire permit: a cool C-note. Renting local po-pos and other security: at least a grand.

"Throwing a legal party in this town is a major headache," Freedom says. "I'm not trying to sound like a dick, but working out the legal details is a major headache. I'm just trying to make a measly $500."

Then why not just pay for the 501c3 status yourself? Freedom's hoping to get many happy returns on his investment. But if he's throwing a party and nobody came . . .

"If the party gets fucked up in some way, or no one turns out, I'll probably be jaded for a while," Freedom says. "But even if it's a big success, we're still getting involved in the community and enjoying what's going on, so fuck yeah, it's worth it."


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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.