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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

SLIDESHOW: SoCal Steampunks Tame Zombies, Muse On Modern Culture

Kevin Douglas Grant |
September 26, 2010 | 5:12 p.m. PDT

Executive Editor

The guests arrived in Hollywood from another era, hungry for intelligent entertainment and thirsty for blood-inspired cocktails.

Bar Sinister offered plenty of both Saturday night to a few hundred corseted and top hat-adorned revelers, courtesy of the steampunk performance troupe League of S.T.E.A.M..

The League - also known as the "Steampunk Ghostbusters" - displayed their own zombie-killing versions of Victorian-era technologies - think Nicola Tesla had he been obsessed with the undead.

Steampunk, a small but thriving subculture popular in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, combines Victorian-era attire (from corsets to aviator goggles to pith helmets), literary imagery from Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, and an intellectual playfulness that embraces time travel as heartily as the iPhone.

In one demonstration, League members showed amused audience members how zombies could be domesticated to perform basic household chores like laundry, yardwork, and the fetching of slippers. Of course, the creepily collared and intubated servants ran amok onstage, scorching a dress shirt, spilling a cocktail, and nearly decapitating the master of the house with a pair of large garden shears.

Another act featured R.O.S.E. - Reanimate Optimized Search Engine - a gorgeous robot designed to deactivate rogue zombies on behalf of her owners. On Saturday night, she managed to tame one of two zombies while the second devoured an overmatched inventor.

Throughout the perfomances, clever spectators bantered back and forth with League members, creating a jovial and Vaudevillian mood. Male performers teased and flirted with playfully dressed female volunteers, feeding a sexual current among the assembled.

Later in the evening, a large ring of people held hands as League co-founder "Crackitus Potts" sent a mild electric current through the circle with a Teslaesque device.

Bar Sinister is an L.A. haven for alternative subcultures including goth, industrial, and some light bondage / S&M. One partygoer said the atmosphere is typically much darker - and crazier - on a Saturday night, but the steampunks seemed to be more interested in chatting than club dancing.

But what do you expect from a literary subculture?

Reach editor Kevin Grant here.

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