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Thursday, February 21, 2008

We’re Living in a Powder Keg and Giving Off Sparks

posted by on February 21 at 10:12 AM

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(Awesome eclipse photo by Nic Launceford.)

Last night, between 7:01 and 7:51 pm, somewhere between 150 and 200 people gathered in Cal Anderson Park to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at the moon, which was in a full lunar eclipse. The group, of mixed ethnicity, age, and gender, sang the song exactly 10 times.

At the top of Teletubby Hill, one man stood holding a boombox over his head, John Cusack style. Another man, the one who conceived of the event in the first place, held a megaphone. The rest of the singers cascaded down the hill all the way back to the fountains, so they appeared to be serenading the moon.

Some people came to the event because they’re on the Seattle Cacophony listserv, which is also the birthplace of events like Santarchy and the Brides of March. One man came because of his friend—“There must be ten people here because of him,” he laughed—who initially received the e-mail through rampant forwarding. Another man, wandering through the park, saw the gathering, shouted “All right!” like he’d waited his entire life for a large group of strangers to be singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” in the middle of a park, and ran to the mass of people, who welcomed him enthusiastically. People who hadn’t seen each other in years happened across each other. One woman climbed her boyfriend and started making out with him.

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More singers climbed the hill already singing the song, like a weird version of that old “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial. And it was an honestly touching event: It’s hard to convey the power of dozens of people repeatedly singing “Forever’s gonna start tonight” all at once, but if you were there and you didn’t feel tingles, you must be a little dead inside.

Between songs, the man with the megaphone would announce the number the group had gotten up to: “This is the third iteration!” By the sixth iteration, people were do-se-do-ing during the “Turnaround” parts. During the seventh iteration, somebody was beatboxing along to the chorus. During the eighth iteration, a sad-looking woman came over, sat by the group without singing, and stared off, looking sad. At the end of that iteration, she stood up, nodded to herself, and then wandered off. She looked a little happier. And, full disclosure: I choked up during the sixth chorus, which in my opinion was the strongest.

Before the man with the megaphone announced the ninth iteration, a flight of birds flew overhead in V formation, lit by the park’s streetlights. The singers burst into spontaneous applause. After the tenth iteration, the man with the megaphone announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Moon!” Everyone applauded more. Finally, because someone announced it was the man with the megaphone’s birthday, everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” before wandering off to drink and nurse their colds and sleep. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is officially the best song in the world.

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