The Beak: First Impressions (Part One)

So, like nearly everyone else in the area by this point, I’ve been hearing a lot about the Beak lately. Here’s the thing, though, I actually went for the first time yesterday night. And I want to write about it, which I’m not sure is totally and strictly something that I’m supposed to do. I’m going to anyway, though. The reason is this: I think the crazy air of secrecy surrounding this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion, and is giving people the wrong idea. I think it was intended to reinforce the organic process of how people learn about and end up at the Beak, rather than 30,000 people reading about it on Yelp or something and showing up one night. But now I think people are under the impression that it’s more like a secret society than anything else. And that’s really far from the truth.

So anyway, I’m not going to go as far as saying where the place is, and I won’t post any pictures (except for stuff I find online that gives you an idea of what some things look like). I’m just going to try to give an honest, non-blown-out-of-proportion account of what it’s like to go there. And honestly I don’t think anyone’s going to give me a hard time about it. Or it could really piss everyone off and I’ll never be allowed back again. One or the other.

Anyway, I went with a friend, who got involved, like a lot of people through his involvement with the visual effects industry. He worked on “Avenger in the Desert” in the 80s. And a whole bunch of that crowd, the folks who worked on movies like “Avenger” and “Swan Child” and the other trashy but enjoyable movies that made up the weird little boomlet of New-England-produced sword-and-sorcery flicks in the 80s, are apparently the people who started the Beak in the first place.

(And of course, my personal connection to that boomlet, as I tell anyone who is interested, is that I knew the actual Swan Child, Clea Tunnell — when the movie was filming and she went to classes at the local elementary school. We were in the same third grade class. Not only did I know her, we decided that we were “dating” and eventually would get married. Spoiler alert: we didn’t. Anyway…)

This pic is the closest thing I could find to what the sculpture looks like. The real one is all wooden, hung tentacles facing down, and more stylized, like a kraken in an old engraving.

This pic is the closest thing I could find to what the sculpture looks like. The real one is all wooden, hung tentacles facing down, and more stylized, like a kraken in an old engraving.

So I and my friend — who I’m not naming specifically at his request — went over to the Beak, at his suggestion, quite early. Like before 5 o’clock. So there were only a few people there at that point, and everything was very bright. It was certainly not the dark cavernous space that I’d pictured. The space is enormous; a converted factory floor. Stage at one end, and there’s a open loft-balcony-thing at the other that takes up about a third of the length of the building. And lots of very large skylights on the ceiling, so during the daytime, like I said, there’s just light pouring in. We drove in and parked in a small garage underground beneath the building, and took this big freight elevator up to the balcony area.

From up there, you can see the whole area. All wood, wood floors and everything, and of course the actual “Beak” itself, the big squid sculpture hanging down from the ceiling in the center of the building. And up on the balcony, where we were, is the sort of workshop area. There were 6 or 7 guys working on carving guitars and mandolins and things, and there were literally dozens of instruments hung up on all the walls.

And both up there, and down on the main floor, there’s art everywhere. Huge canvas paintings hung up, lots of murals painted directly on the walls, big paper mache parade puppet things hanging down or leaning against the walls.

I have to clean my apartment, and shouldn’t spend all day on this blog, so I’ll continue this post tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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