The Parlor: Close Up Magic with Erik Tait

Magic shows aren’t quite within my scope of focus, but considering my overall experience this past Saturday night at The Parlor, I felt compelled to make an exception. If you haven’t heard of The Parlor before that’s because you weren’t supposed to. Kind of. The Parlor is a relatively new secret venue tucked into an unsuspected crevice within downtown Columbus. To gain access to the venue and their steadily curated calendar of events you must apply to become one of their 201 members. I was lucky enough to be invited out for Erik Tait’s second performance of the night and a double dose of mysteriousness.

An awkward photo of me

An awkward photo of me

The day of the show I received an email with instructions on how to find the venue. It involved meeting an anonymous man in a black hat and felt like the beginning of an episode of The Twilight Zone. I told my friends that if I went missing it’s because I was lured to a magic show at a speakeasy, and they shouldn’t come looking for me.

As we entered it became apparent that the venue with a capacity of 30 people was nothing more than a living room with stadium seated couches and benches. A small stage was situated in the corner where magician Erik Tait awaited with a deck of cards which he had everyone shuffle before taking their seats. A curtain separated the seating area from the kitchen which emanated the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls. I knew it would be an intimate setting, but I had no idea it would be that intimate. Normally I have to go to my grandma's house for this type of hospitality. In addition to cinnamon rolls, a variety of beer from North High Brewing Company was included with the price of the ticket. At this point, I no longer feared the possibility of going missing, but if I did, at least I was wined and dined first.

Before the commencement of the evening, all in attendance are asked to take an oath of secrecy. We then signed the stage, legally binding (symbolically) our vow of silence. Precluding the performance was some conversation about Game of Thrones theories, our shared intrigue of the venue, and our desire for one of those cinnamon rolls. Then Erik Tait began his introduction.

Tait who is as much a comedian as he is a magician began the night by telling us a little bit about himself. At this time he’s the International Brotherhood of Magicians Gold Cups Close Up Competition Champion, a mouthful of an award he proved worthy of by nights end. His style of magic utilizes a deck of cards and depends on his proclaimed sleight of hand and deception of the audience. I had a hunch that somehow I would end up being called up from the audience to take part in the show, and I did, along with another. The night before I found myself watching Magic For Humans on Netflix, and as I watched I tried to decipher the tomfoolery behind the tricks. So I was both excited and prepared to get a close-up view of the sorcery.

His tricks were refreshing and compelling. He constantly involved the other contestant and myself. He had us shuffling the deck, picking cards, phoning friends, and performing other actions to add complexity to his situation. During the evening he managed to make all four aces surface to the top of the deck, forced a deck shuffled by myself to separate itself by color, and he managed to make the stack of ten cards in my hands reduce itself to seven. Where did the other three cards go? Somehow they ended up in the hands of the girl across from me. His methods were never revealed, and for the most part, his tricks remained a complete enigma.

Days later I’m still pondering his final and most impressive trick. The deck we had all shuffled as we entered was placed into a cup before he began the show. During the show, he used a different, unopened deck of cards. After shuffling the deck numerous times he set it down and asked me to grab the original deck of cards which still remained in the cup. He set that deck next to the other and began a monologue about the complexity of a deck of cards, explained the vast number of possible ways a deck of cards can be arranged to put it all into perspective. Then he flipped the decks and laid them both out revealing the order of each deck. I shit you not, card for card, the decks were in identical order. Even if he knew how to shuffle the deck to match the other, there was no way of knowing what the order of the original one was. For the past three nights, I’ve laid awake in bed hoping for an ah-hah moment to debunk him. I still don’t have any leads.

All in all, it was an amazing experience. Card tricks aside, there was something magical about it all. After the show, I spoke with Joey Hendrickson, the founder of The Parlor, about how this novel venue came to be. Joey, who also founded The Columbus Songwriter’s Association, explained his passion for music and his mission to support local artists. He believes in creating opportunities that allow artists to build a sustainable career independent of the overall industry. The Parlor is only his most recent endeavor in these regards. His goal was to create an intimate setting intended for an audience of people who are dedicated to supporting the lives of artists and sustaining the growth of our music community.

Joey also mentioned that he believes an artist’s success is primarily dependent on their ability to reach a dedicated audience, something his new venue provides. He joked about how royalty checks don’t really pay the bills, fans do. The Parlor supports his belief because it offers artists a paid opportunity to showcase their talent in an intimate setting allowing them to connect with their fans. By building a community of dedicated fans and advocates, he hopes to create a bubble within which artists can build a supportive career. His passion for this idea and music in general was apparent and inspiring. Speaking with him reminded me how awesome of a music city Columbus is, and reassured me that innovative ideas like his will keep Columbus trending upwards in these regards. If you ever have the chance to experience The Parlor, do it. Don’t let “the man in a black hat” deter you. He’s much friendlier than he sounds.