"As the venue darkened for Fanfarlo's set, a flurry of activity was perceptible at the edge of the stage, where it appeared that a man was being strapped into -- could it be? – a straightjacket and slowly strung up by his feet from the stage lights.
As the lights came up and the band clapped out an a cappella lead-in to their single "These Walls Are Coming Down," it became apparent that the man in question was escape artist Michael Lee, who wriggled maniacally out of his restraints as the band launched exuberantly into the trumpet-led ditty.
It was the dramatic highlight of an otherwise rather staid, albeit pitch-perfect, performance. "
Have you ever asked either yourself or somebody else why they stomach the time-bandit commutes and exorbitant rents to live in New York City? Well, get a load of this random New York City moment.
Just before Fanfarlo took to the Webster Hall stage on Friday night, they opened the show with a crowd pleasing something extra – something BIG. The show commenced with a man being harnessed in a straitjacket and hoisted upside-down via the lighting rig, high above the stage. The band came on stage to wild applause and tore into probably their best song The Walls are Coming Down while the magician wriggled an amazing escape before the song closed to thunderous applause.
Now here’s where the funny New York saga comes into to play. As my wife and I watched this magician’s face turn tomato-red and the arteries bulge from his forehead as he struggled to escape, she says “Oh my God, that’s our friend with the parrot from our building. We totally know him.” At first, we couldn’t believe it, but she was right. This magician actually lives in our building and I confirmed it in the elevator the following day. He regularly sits out front on the stoop with a giant white parrot and chats amicably with all of the neighbors. So, in the spirit of surprise, we decided to conduct a quick chat later that day regarding the awesome feat.
READ ON for more from Ryan on Fanfarlo at Webster Hall…
It turns out, the anonymous man behind Fanfarlo’s amazing stunt is a man named Michael Lee, a widely acclaimed magician and death-defying daredevil. Michael said he did not previously know of Fanfarlo (more of a REM, Moby, Stones, and Springsteen guy). Rather, “A well known restraint collector in the Los Angeles area put me in touch with the band’s management. The band had originally had an escape artist perform with them in their video, ‘The Walls are Coming Down.’ Hence, they wanted to duplicate this during their live performance here in the US for their final performance of a 26 show tour at Webster Hall.”
We discussed the escape and I couldn’t help ask if it really does require dislocating one’s shoulder (a la Riggs in Lethal Weapon 3) and the secrets behind the trick. “What you saw me perform, about five stories up, at Webster Hall; I wish I could say what the audience saw was a magic trick. But it wasn’t. What the Escape Artist does is very real. There is no trick involved. Getting out of a straitjacket at that height is accomplished through sheer hard work and sweat. The feat is accomplished through an almost sheer focus. You have to relax at the right time, use sheer strength in places and through the whole thing there is a Zen-like concentration and focus.”
“The stunt itself is learned and practiced with baby steps,” he continued. “First you go to a local playground and hang upside down on the monkey bars. You gradually move on to being suspended from higher spaces, and yes the blood does rush to your head. You have to work somewhat swiftly to avoid blacking out. The highest I’ve ever been suspended was 17 stories with one added twist: I had exactly 3 minutes to release myself from the restraint as the rope was on fire.”
You just don’t get this kind of encounter outside New York City. So before we get back to the Fanfarlo show and the music, there was one last thing we were dying to know, what exactly drives somebody to start cheating death?
“One of the comments I often hear regarding my work is, ‘do you have some sort of a death wish?’ If anything, it’s a life wish,” Michael retorted. “I grew up in rural Canada and was diagnosed with the extremely painful and debilitating illness of Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of eight. I spent a year and a half in a hospital bed and was told by doctors that I might never walk again. The experience itself made me develop a superhuman-like focus and a desire to experience life beyond what we accept as life’s traditional boundaries.”
As you can only imagine, it’d be tough for any band to keep up the energy and excitement after such a raucous, tone-setting opener, but Fanfarlo continued to stage a memorable performance after our magical new friend left the stage..."
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Escape artist Michael Lee of Massepequa did Saturday what so many criminals only wish they could escape from jail. Lee broke free of a straitjacket and cellblock
that dates back to 1957 from the town of Babylon...MORE(PDF)
Escape Artist breaks free from historical jail in minutes
by Joseph McArdle