Inside David Byrne’s Trippy New Immersive Experience in Denver
Reconnect with your senses at this new experience from Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, plus a cocktail popup at Death & Co.
In an era when ‘pop-up’ installations are inhabiting cities left and right, it seems more times than not we’re left underwhelmed, walking out with swag bags and a camera roll filled with uninspired Instagram photo ops. David Byrne and Mala Gaonkar's experiential theater project Theater of the Mind, which runs through December 18 at Denver’s York Street Yards, does a whole lot more than that, leaving your brain, and all five senses, stimulated in a way that having your cell phone in tow wouldn’t even be able to depict.
Once you arrive at York Street Yards, your belongings, including your phone, are stowed away in a locker, you’re assigned a name tag, and for the next 75 minutes you take on an entirely new persona: someone from Byrne’s past.
Scene 1: David Byrne’s funeral. “David” rises from the casket. (To be clear, the actual David Byrne isn’t there—on theme with challenging our minds and identity, he’s played by a multiracial cast of men and women.) Now it’s time for you and the crew to travel through David’s memory and witness where exactly your new persona fits into place.
Scene 2: David’s brain. Enter a glowing pink room filled with chairs and mirrors where you’ll have your own brain tripped out with lighting and optical illusion effects. As you continue through the rooms you’ll travel to the discotheque where David used to DJ, a backyard BBQ from his childhood, a scene from one of his young adult jobs, a questionable attic, and more. Each scenario provokes a specific smell and in some cases a taste (don’t worry, the candy from the discotheque won’t impair your ability to drive home after) accompanied by a story involving one of you.
There’s no bigger ‘back to reality’ shock than being escorted from the experience directly into a gift shop selling TOTM merch, but the show will leave you feeling exhilarated and existential (in my case, wondering who would show up to my own funeral), inhabiting your own memory palace.
But before heading to the show itself, we recommend hitting a corollary cocktail component that takes place at the world-famous cocktail bar Death & Co—within The Ramble Hotel in Denver’s River North Arts District—which has transformed its intimate second floor Suite 6a space into the Neuro Bar Lab. Devon Tarby, VP of Food & Beverage at Death & Co, worked with Colorado-based neuroscientists and his mixology team to create a six-course cocktail tasting that taps into each of your senses. For $75, your bartender will guide you through the six cocktails (which are pretty strong, so don’t feel pressured to finish each one) and quiz you with thought provoking questions about the taste, leaving you with that nagging feeling of ‘I know what that is, I just can’t put my finger on it.’
By altering your own sight (yes, a blindfold is required for one course) and sip (you’ll want to toss the first course back like a Jello-O shot), the menu encourages you to explore familiar flavors and liquors through unconventional means. The beauty of the experience is to interpret it yourself, and you can expect these thoughts to pop up as you enjoy the two-hour tasting: Can the color of a beverage alter your perception of taste? What if a drink commonly enjoyed on the rocks was served piping hot like a cup of tea? Why does this whiskey make you travel back in time to a childhood classic? For one course, you’re even presented with a tray of fragrant droppers, directed to sniff and add to a highball until you’ve reached a desired taste.
The experience is open Thursday through Saturday, and reservations are required. If you’re staying at The Ramble Hotel, you can also add the Neuro Nightcap, which for an extra $80 includes a private cocktail tasting for two, Theater of the Mind mugs, the Miracle Berries from the discotheque scene, and a custom playlist by David Byrne himself.