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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

“Trauma (for your momma) … not really”

Written by Raad Shubaily and Josh Weiker

 Photos contributed by The Hot 17 Magazine

That simple, single word has an entirely outrageous implication of imagery and sensorial exploration for the people of Columbus. 
    Technically speaking, ‘trauma,’ is:
  1. a body wound or shock produced by sudden physical injury, as from violence or accident
  2.  an experience that produces psychological injury or pain
In Columbus, ‘Trauma’ is one of those words that means much more than its defined terms (however, they both might still apply). Simply labeled as ‘a Halloween fetish party,’ this yearly extravaganza has got to be one of the biggest [non-festival] parties in the city.

            Now, if you haven’t been, I know you might be thinking – ‘Hold up, what do you mean fetish party?’ – Well first, let me just start by saying, don’t let that little part scare you off. Instead, start with the ‘Halloween’ part – it’s a giant Halloween party! Aside from that random guy, dawning a hoodie featuring his favorite professional football team (and matching backwards cap to boot), standing creepily alone in the balcony; just about every one of the party-goers is in costume – each way better than mine. 

Secondly, … ya, okay, it’s a fetish party. It’s not all chains and whips, however they are present – it’s not celebrating disturbing fetishes (like people who really like feet), but the more presentational and even artistic expressions, such as Burlesque, body modification, and even one of the most wide-spread fetishes of all – dancing.  As a final note, if you are one to be a bit squeamish at times, or prude about partial nudity, than perhaps Trauma isn’t for you. Nudity is an abundant resource at Trauma – from pre-painted-on costumes, to bodies being painted, to performers striping down to pasties and panties – the nakedness at Trauma makes the nakedness at Comfest seem almost non-existent.

Photos by The Hot 17
About half-way through the night, you should pretty much get de-sensitized to the various displays of nudity, so that should be no big deal. The height of Trauma’s “yikes” factor probably hits right around the time people start swinging from human-sized fish hooks from the ceiling (sorry, I could have worded it more kindly, I just couldn’t help myself). More properly known as, flesh hook suspension, these performances evoke a spectrum of reactions from awe to “Aaahh!”

Photos by The Hot 17
2011 happens to mark Trauma’s 10-Year Anniversary, and the festivities will once again be held at the Bluestone (because what better place to have a Halloween fetish party, than in an old church). While the venue once known as BoMA has changed its name to Bluestone, it is nice to know that the ruckus yearly events have remained. This year, Trauma will be held on TWO nights (October 27th & November 4th), with the same line-up being featured each night. The venue itself is a ridiculous space – three floors, a handful of stages, and a patio that’s bigger than most bars in the city. There are bars in just about every corner, spread out like little alcohol oasis’s – but they are kind of pricy, apparently convenience comes at a price.

            As expected, the entertainment is right on par to mark such an occasion: over 30 performers (featured acts/individuals/groups); more than a dozen DJs; and a line-up of bands that will rock your socks off …

Photos by The Hot 17
Walking into Trauma can be overwhelming.  Disregarding the suspension and performance artists, there are upwards of 10 musical performances spread over 4 separate stages.  Trauma’s home, the Bluestone, is so large that it’s not only difficult to figure out what room you’re in, but also what room you’re about to step into.  Though it’s impossible to catch every musical performance of the night, there were certainly a few highlights.

I’m not entirely sure if I’ve ever seen so many DJs in the same venue at the same time.  The first one I noticed was Raintrain, who can often be found at the monthly Dig! dance party that takes place at Circus Columbus bar. Rocking his trademark Adidas sweat suit, his set includes clips of the James Bond theme song remixed with dance beats, 3-D lights, fog and a bubble machine. The guy knows how to entertain.
          Another outstanding set was DJ Self Help and Jared “Path” Young.  Path’s showmanship is on a level that’s not easy to come by.  Backed by Self Help’s spinning and scratching, their performance was one of the best all night.  As an emcee, Path’s fluid rhymes flow effortlessly and mix perfectly with Self Help’s beats.  
          Though a D.J. could be found in at least one of the Bluestone’s large listening rooms at any given time, there were some rock bands in the house too.  Ranging from the indie synth rock of Town Monster to Cleveland’s Megachurch and local dark-rockers the Phantods, Trauma didn’t skimp on finding the right performers.

 I was only able to catch the last few songs of Megachurch’s set and was delightfully surprised.  Judging by their recordings online, I expected many more televangelist samples.  However, this is not what I ended up hearing in their last few moments.  They straddle the fringe of metal and hard rock, but they’re quite melodically complete.  They’re a tight band, with a solid sound that could be considered aggressive, but are not overly aggressive.
          Dually entertaining was the Phantods’ set for the evening.  I’m not typically a fan of minor or darker rock music, but the energy they put out was excellent.  Donning costumes from the original Star Trek from the 1960’s, they had a good presence on stage.   One of the most interesting things to observe about different bands is how the members work together while performing.  Phantods have what could only be described as a natural chemistry about them, blending their instruments into one cohesive unit.

If you go to Trauma, don’t expect to see every band or D.J. that is there.  It’s simply not realistic.   Many of the attendees don’t exactly go for a specific band in the first place, $25 to see a band you can catch playing around town for $5 isn’t exactly the best deal. To simplify, a good idea is to look at the wide array of entertainment on the schedule and pick maybe three or so musical performances to watch.  There’s plenty of good people watching to do, and the other entertainment is definitely worth checking out as well.   

 All in all, it’s a wicked fun party.                                     

Special Thanks to: Jacob Wooten, Meghan Ralston & All of the AMAZING performers that made Trauma 2011 so spectacular, the wonderful folks at Evolved Body Art and Kobo Live, and the staff at the Bluestone.

For more information about ‘Trauma,’ check out their website:
Purchase Ticket Now @


Halle Neiderman said...

This year marks my first Trauma experience. Prior to attending, the only knowledge I had of the experience is it is a fetish party and the space used to be BoMa. Now, I get that the origination of the fetish party lies in the fem/dom play; however, not everyone attending Trauma is an active player or a seeking novice. Some are merely there for the spectacle. It is this spectacle that has the ability reshape sexuality and sexual lifestyles, especially for the voyeur who is there only for the spectacle. This ability to transform ideology of sexual experience and gender is a rare opportunity for active players and interested voyeurs. I am not going to assume Trauma exists to do this; I am only presenting the idea that they have the opportunity, which they unfortunately did not take, allowing for those interested voyeurs to recycle the same gender and sexuality norms created over time and further perpetuate the female as viewed and alternative lifestyles as spectacle.
My beef with Trauma is not the lack of entertainment, but entering voyeurs into a private apparatus (pun intended) on the pretense of witnessing something different or engaging in relationships believed to be different. Instead, the viewer is given the same gender narrative witnessed seamlessly from Renaissance Art to the reproduction of viewing the female in 21st century popular culture: she is there for you to view, she will actively participate in this relationship, and she enjoys being viewed. This can be witnessed from the runway at the beginning, to the painting of women, to the use of men as frames to display the female as art to be looked at.
Quite possibly my biggest issue of the continual re-presentation of the female to view is that it is done on Halloween: the holiday known for women dressing risqué without fear of others speaking poorly of them (which is essentially a whole different loaded idea). Place this event on Easter or the third Wednesday in August and maybe the narrative changes. With Slut Walks on the rise to change the relationship between the public and the female (as if the two are not mutually inclusive) Trauma (an event designed to reveal the relationship of men worshipping women) fails to deliver a different narrative, but merely tells the same narrative in a different space.

Nick Wolak said...

Hi Halle,
Thank you very much for your insightful and interesting feedback!
I would like to personally invite you to contribute to next year's TRAUMA.
Each year it becomes more and more of a community event.
And the only way to keep it moving in that direction is by incorporating as many great ideas from as many great people as possible.

Please feel free to contact me directly at

Thanks again!

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