Krampus 2014 recap

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Late last week, I got a call from a writer at National Geographic. She wanted to know why the people of Ypsilanti had decided, five years ago, to summon the spirit of Krampus back to earth. Now that Krampus events are becoming more commonplace around the United States, she wanted to find out where it had all started, and apparently this quest led her back to Ypsi. We talked for half an hour or so. I told her how we were motivated, among other things, by the over-commercialization of Christmas, and the ridiculous notion put forward by religious conservatives that Christmas is “under attack” by the left. I’d like to think that I was eloquent in my explanation, and made it clear why it was only natural that this happened here, in the bizarre and magical little town of Ypsilanti. Apparently, though, none of that made the cut.

My only quote in the article is this: “We’re not devil worshipers. We’re just having a party.

I wish they’d gone into a little more detail, but I can’t really complain. It’s an accurate quote. I can actually remember saying it in the context of Black Jake’s appearance on Telemundo. The woman from National Geographic was asking if we’d experienced any pushback from the community. I told her that I knew people weren’t universally enthusiastic about the reemergence of Krampus, and noted the fact that a least one of the people interviewed in the Telemundo piece saw Krampus as anti-Chirstian. With that said, though, I told her that we hadn’t experienced anything like that in Ypsi. “It’s not like churches are holding prayer vigils outside this event,” I think I said. “People know it’s tongue-in-cheek.” But, yeah, when you boil it all down to its essence, we don’t worship the devil, and we love to party.

And this past Saturday was one hell of a party.

As I spent 90% of my evening working far from the debauchery, I’m probably not in the best position to comment on how things went at Ypsi’s fifth annual Krampus celebration, but I will try my best. Here, for what they’re worth, and in no particular order, are my abbreviated thoughts.

1. Being antisocial by nature, I volunteered to work behind the bar, pouring wine and filling glasses with beer for our volunteer bartenders, Morgan and Casey. So, for most of the night, I had my back to the crowd, hunched over a keg. And, as a result, I missed most of the fun stuff. Case in point, I just now happened across a photo of a young woman getting her ass spanked by what I’m pretty sure is the Mark Maynard puppet. I had no idea that this was happening at the time. If I had, it would have probably made me cry like Cinderella. There I was, covered in beer, furiously pumping away at the keg in order to keep our guests hydrated, while my puppet was living it up with the ladies. I know I brought it on myself, but it’s still not fair… One’s puppet should never be having more fun than oneself.

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This photo comes by way of Jim Leach, who posted his notes about the event on a site called Daily Nightmare. If you haven’t already, check it out. He’s got some good stuff.

2. Ypsilanti’s Dreamland Theater worked well as a venue… We made the decision this year to move the event away from the Corner Brewery, allowing us more time to set up and decorate. At first, we were thinking of doing it as a house party somewhere, but then it occurred to us to see if Dreamland was available, and everything started falling into place. It took quite a bit of work to get everything just the way we wanted it, but it worked out beautifully. Not only did we have an awesome time there, but we were also able to raise over $400 for our local puppet troupe, who kicked the evening off by performing a play about the intoxicatingly warm glow given off by Santa’s ass during the yuletide. (Brian Bruxvoort, one of the Dreamland puppeteers, wore Santa’s ass on his head the entire evening.)

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 3.08.11 PM3. People seemed to enjoy themselves. Here’s one of many such notes that have been sent my way over the past 24 hours. I’ve talked with the woman who sent this, by the way, and she’s fine. After a quick nap, she was able to make her way to shelter.

4. People danced their asses off. Given that all the cameras we shaking, and fog was being pumped into the room, the documentation is somewhat limited, but here’s a pretty good shot taken by Ryan Dawson, who spent the night in the DJ booth.

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5. No one caught the reference, but my mask for this year’s event was created in homage to the BBC series Black Mirror… And, no, I don’t know why I look crazy in this photo. It’s the only one that I have of the mask, though. (Oh, speaking of Black Mirror, I just heard that there’s a Christmas special coming up starring John Hamm. We should set up a viewing party somewhere.)

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6. My friend Gene’s ass has been getting a lot of well-deserved love on Facebook. These shots were posted by Alice Jo Gannon Boss, who just moved here to Ypsi a few weeks ago. Hopefully she’s not having second thoughts about having bought a home here.

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7. This year, we were joined by an authentic Balkan marching band, ρυτά μουσική (Rhyta Musik), and they were incredible. You’ll find video of them marching through the dark streets of Ypsi below, but here’s a photo of them on the dance floor, just before heading out on our midnight, torchlit procession.

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8. There were a lot of awesome costumes. I remember talking with a Krampus hunter that I thought had a beautiful horn. (Her outfit, she said, was made from pieces of Krampi that she’d tracked and killed.) I also have a vague memory of my fellow organizer Chris Sandon interviewing a person on stage who had come dressed as “a blood-covered sheet.” And there was a guy wearing studded colander on his head. I assume he was an acolyte of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but I didn’t ask him. Instead we talked about his daughter going away to graduate school at MIT. And there were, of course, lots of Krampi. And Jessica Sheeran made some lovely, little cloven hooves for herself, which you can see below. And there was some kind of time-traveling, mullet-having bounty hunter. And we were joined once again by the silver god, who insisted upon checking IDs for us. I could go on, but I think that should give you a sense of just how eclectic the audience was.

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9. If I had to identify one thing that didn’t go well, I’d have to say it was having my face set on fire.

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Don’t worry. It’s an optical illusion. The woman on the left was just lighting her cigarette off of my torch, which was actually a few feet in front of my face when this photo was taken… The photo, by the way, was taken by Mike Perini, who also took the photo at the very top of the page, as well as the one of the band that I just shared. Mike, when he’s not reading the news on Michigan Radio, has has a show on WCBN called Pandora’s Lunchbox, and it was in that capacity that he interview Chris and I few days ago about our plans for Krampus. It’s a bit choppy, but, if you’d like to listen, here are the links. (Part 1. Part 2.) The best part is toward the end, where we talk about tMike playing Charlie Brown in a “Peanuts on Ice” reboot starring Krampus.

10. Also awesome were the Dirty Snowball Sundaes and Vegan Dirty Snowball Sundaes being served up by our friends at Go Ice Cream. Here’s a photo of a young woman eating a bit from one of her talons. If you’d like to know more about how the Dirty Snowball Sundaes were made, just follow these links to hear Mike Perini talking with Rob Hess, the man behind Go Ice Cream. (Part 1. Part 2.) Rob is a lovely man, and his ice cream is incredible.

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11. As always, my favorite part of the night was the midnight march, which this year, in addition to torches, and kick ass music, also had shadow puppets projected on a bloody sheet. Here’s video of the march.

KRAMPUS 2014 from dirty bros. quality productions on Vimeo.

More videos of the march can be found here, here, and here.

12. We ended the night standing around a barrel fire on Water Street. We had the lid close by, in case we needed to smother it. And we had a fire extinguisher on hand. We did everything right. In spite of that, though, I was incredibly panicky all day, worrying that something would go wrong. It didn’t, though. And I’m thankful for that. I couldn’t have asked for the whole thing to go any better. And the memory of people standing around the barrel, tossing in the receipts and other scraps of paper in their pockets in order to get it going, is one that will stay with me for a long, long time. It was one of those beautiful Ypsi moments… people coming together when called on to make something magical happen.

Happy holidays, Ypsilanti.

As I can smell Christmas cookies being baked downstairs, I think it’s time for me to wrap this up. Before I do, though, there are several people I’d like to thank… Andy Claydon, Linette Lao and Jason Wright for watching the door, Morgan Cox and Casey Dawson for bartending, Brad Perkins for stepping in to pump beer when I had to light my torches, Ryan Dawson for DJing, Jason Youngs for running out and buying more beer for us when we ran out, the Dreamland team for everything that they did, Patrick Elkins for breaking out the shadow puppets, Canton Belanger for his basement slideshow, the cops of Ypsi for looking the other way and allowing us to do our thing, Go Ice Cream for bringing the dirty snowballs, Mike Perini and Patrick Dunn for spreading the gospel of Krampus, Rhyta Musik for putting the whole damn thing over the top, and Chris Sandon, my partner in all things Krampus, for making it all happen. I’m sure I left people out. If I did, I’m sorry.

And, if you came out, thank you. I hope you had a good time.

Oh, according to the New York Times, Krampus fever is spreading around the world, so don’t be surprised if next year things are even bigger and more awesome.

The following images are from Jennifer Albaum, Chris Sandon and Alexa Dietz.

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For those of you interested in how Ypsi’s Krampus celebration has evolved over time, here are four links. If you follow them, I think you’ll get a pretty good sense of things: 2010 recap, 2011 recap, 2012 recap, 2013 recap.

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17 Comments

  1. D'Real
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Leave a comment. Not you, Peter Larson!

  2. BrianB
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    That was actually the puppet Krampus attempting to spank dancers. He was hopelessly tangled and kept looking up over his shoulder at me like a wounded dog as I swung him out at peoples asses. It was creeping me out so I brought out the Mark Maynard puppet (who played the mayor of ypsilanti in “Santa’s Ass”) to go kick some ass but I’m sorry to say no one took that bait. Also, I believe that the bloody sheet costume emerged from menstrual krampus, the devil’s tampon, and then became the shadow puppet screen, which was a beautiful butterfly-like transformation which restored my faith in the holiday season. It was a fantastic evening, and I hope everyone makes it back to dreamland on New Year’s Eve for another wild celebration of music & puppetry hosted by Patrick Elkins.

  3. Posted December 23, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Interesting event.

  4. Eel
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Ypsilanti is the cutest laurel center of the universe.

  5. Eel
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    cultural center

  6. Demetrius
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Best. Krampus. Ever.

    And truly, just another one of the amazing things that makes Ypsi “Ypsi.”

    Thanks to Mark, Linette, Patrick, Andy … and everyone else who helped to make it possible.

  7. XXX
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I thought that I’d miss ending the night at a drag show, but ending it around a fire listening to Rhyta Musik was even better. Truly inspired.

  8. Patrick McLean
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Feeling bad for having missed the fun. What more do you know about the Balkan band? Would love to catch them sometime if they play locally. There’s a great and very raucous house band at Barbes in Brooklyn called slavic soul party. These kinds of bands often put on a great show. And downtown Ypsi is closer than Brooklyn.

  9. Gene
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Mark and everyone who worked so hard and so well on this year’s Krampus – super fun time!!

  10. Posted December 23, 2014 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I am glad I did not attend this event.

    I think it would have made me very uncomfortable.

  11. Demetrius
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    @ Peter

    That’s the best part!

  12. idea man
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    Having a barrel fire is safe, but it would be great if there could be a proper bonfine. What would it take to make that happen? Now that this thing is five years old, and you’ve proven yourselves to be trustworthy with your torches and your marching, is there any chance the city might work with you and allow you to have a bigger midnight parade?

  13. Gary Clark
    Posted December 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Mark for a good time. You are always helping to move Ypsilanti forward, always doing the next best thing. The Krampus march ended on Waterstreet . With the random works of art, the fires in the barrels in the open fields, and the cold and the dark of midnight all around us, it was like the end of the world……”Escape from New York” ish. I felt like the devil, lol.

  14. Posted December 24, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    To Patrick… I’m the trumpeter from Rhyta Musik (and the Macpodz, Tone Farmers, Flying Latini Bros., etc.) Slavic Soul party is certainly one of our influences/inspirations. Rhyta doesn’t have any public gigs on the calendar right now, although we’re working to change that. If you have any leads, please do drop a line. We play house parties. We’ve completed recording an EP with Ravine Records and are in the final stages of mixing/mastering & artwork, so look for that in early 2015. Plans are also in the works for joining the Festifool’s parade next spring. On behalf of the band, it was a joy to participate in the Krampus Ball and we look forward to all kinds of fun in the new year. Cheers.

  15. Posted December 24, 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like you had fun, and the Balkan brass band is a nice touch. Ice cream isn’t very East European, though; I hope you washed it down with some vodka or Unicum or something.

  16. Eel
    Posted December 24, 2014 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Unicorn cum is too expensive to serve at an Ypsi party. It’s more of an Ann Arbor thing.

  17. Anonymous
    Posted January 24, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Inspiration for next year.

    http://imgur.com/a/s2bCp

2 Trackbacks

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    […] You showed up at our annual Krampus gathering last winter. I hope it didn’t give you any reason to regret having moved […]

  2. By And a Very Merry Krampus to You | Rhonda Parrish on December 2, 2015 at 6:00 am

    […] Krampus fans—tell me all sorts of interesting things. They want to talk to me about the Krampus Ball they went to last year, or if I know where the nearest Krampus parade will be this year, or about […]

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