There was a day in Telluride when a gambler could find any number of gaming houses open and ready to empty pockets. Some get lucky, most do not. Tonight (Friday), luck be a lady of most gracious comportment and temperament as the Sheridan Arts Foundation hosts a Frick Frack Blackjack night in the historic opera house, where not only conversational wagering will take place, but two local bands will entertain the throngs. The fundraiser — the aim is to purchase a much-needed lighting upgrade for the opera house — begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 with a $5 fee.
Frick Frack Blackjack is a concept that arose from the influence of Burning Man, arguably one of the most fertile breeding grounds for uncharted creativity. According to a news release, Frick Frack Blackjack is a no cash, no limit, barter blackjack game that combines one-part comedy show with one-part interactive performance art exhibit. Players can bet anything but cash or trash. Started by a fellow by the name of Marvelous Marvin, Frick Frack Blackjack has turned into a nationally touring act with over 40 dealers and three regional crews.
Frick Frack explores the concept of value and how one determines it, explained the opera house news release. When money is removed from the equation, the relative value of something requires a conversation, debate or some haggling which is at the center of the performance component of Frick Frack. The bet can be as big as that fancy necklace around someone’s neck or the small lighter, bag of potato chips or even a joke or date to amuse the crowd.
After a player makes their bet, the dealer appraises the item along with some playful trash talk or over-the-top praise and then offers an item from the Frick Frack inventory that they consider of equal value. The player can accept or reject the offer. Once all bets are in, the cards are dealt and the dealer and player partake in a casino style game of blackjack with winner taking all.
But what to bet? Not your grandmother’s heirloom pearls, perhaps, but Maggie Stephens, opera house marketing and PR director, said most anything goes.
“People should definitely bring their own Frick Frack, aka cool, weird stuff they are willing to bet,” Stephens said. “Anything but cash or trash. If they forget or don't have time to run home or go to the Free Box, we'll have some inventory they can pull from. The weirder and more interesting an item is, the more it's valued, so bring all your cool stuff.”
Opera house productions and facilities manager Josh Laydon has partaken in Frick Frack events in the past and had a ball. He put the Frick Frack bug in his colleagues’ ears.
“Josh has played Frick Frack Blackjack before at a few different festivals, including Hulaween, so he's seen it in action as a patron and thought they'd be a great fit for Telluride,” Stephens said.
Stephens said the lighting set-up the opera house currently uses is long past its prime.
“The lighting board is approximately five years old and a very basic model, so to be on par with the quality of our productions, we desperately need to upgrade,” she explained.
They could also use some movers, she added.
“Movers are moving lights that add a lot of ambiance to a concert.”
The entire event — Frick Frack Blackjack, plus live music — takes place in the opera house proper. Taking the stage are a pair of local bands that will keep bodies moving while your random items are assessed for their value.
The Telluride Gold Kings will kick things off at 8:30 p.m. Like the Beatles, the Telluride Gold Kings are four musicians, reads the Kings’ band bio. Like the Beatles, two of their members, Brian Wolahan on bass and vocals and Neal Marlens on lead guitar and vocals reside in the industrial city. Drummer-vocalist Ashley Boling and Steve Green, rhythm guitar and vocals, hail from the working-class suburbs. And like the Beatles, their performances have been known to cast their audiences into an almost feverish frenzy.
At 10:15 p.m., Lavalanche will take up the musical duties. They are, according to the band’s bio, a force of nature sliding down the mountainside. Lavalanche rocks a fiery but smooth 1960s rhythm and blues, based around the notable Hammond B3 organ sound. With Mike Enriquez on the Hammond B3 organ, John "Sully" Sullivan on drums, Danny Dalessandro on the saxophone and Tyler Simmons on the electric guitar, this quartet provides inertia to the Lavalanche. Their funky sound erupts with retro danceability, and their use of contemporary tonal modulation shapes landscapes.
The evening, Stephens said, promises to be unique.
"We wanted to mix it up with an event that wasn't a straight concert, and this is a fun, silly activity that has some theatricality that fits in perfectly with the opera house,” she said.
General admission tickets are available at sheridanoperahouse.com. Tax deductible donations for the new lighting system will be happily accepted.