Written by Kevin Heffernan
Photos by Kevin Heffernan

It’s like Midsommar inside Chernobyl

You’ve probably known about Silo City for some time. You’ve kayaked by, attended some art festivals, explored the soaring concrete structures legally or illegally in the past and thought, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool, pretty different.”

Video: Kyle Marler, Flatsitter

The space has changed so dramatically in just the last 2-3 years that if the gigantic silos weren’t looming over every angle of the terrain, you wouldn’t recognize it at all. Duende, the permanent bar and restaurant, open to the public on a regular schedule, is an Americana piece of history that is brand new, but feels as if it’s right out of Silo City’s heyday full of workers thanks to the careful thought in design, no emphasis on television screens, and folk and bluegrass playing over the speakers. The place even has a pleasant smell of wood, beer, and food that is just nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even alive for. The party lawn beside it is full of reunions from friends saying “You knew about this place too?” and the backyard shack which also serves drinks is a gateway to the nature that Silo City has made its leading role.

When I used to enter Silo City around 2009, UB had some architecture students running projects in the sub levels. It allowed some of us to explore and climb in a grey area of permission. Then, it was some brush, some rocks, and some rail lines. Now, nature has returned in a way so remarkable it’s reminiscent of the plants and animals absolutely dominating Pripyat in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

It’s not all natural regrowth. A lot is by design. Thanks to the landscape efforts of Joshua Smith, milkweed is in abundance, and so are butterflies. Pools of water are spotted in random areas and they are designed to filter out the remaining toxicity of any soil pool by pool before rainwater enters the Buffalo River. Plants grow twice as tall as the humans walking through them, creating these natural hallways to consume your imagination before making a turn at the next wooden art installation hidden in the forest.

Torn Space Theater knows the magic that exists on these grounds and has continued to develop new performances every summer that add to the spectacle. In FEAST, they require the audience to explore the grounds before entering in the performance venue, cleared out of the forest and centered around the cottonwood tree that haunts the entire performance. At every turn, a woman is dressed to represent sort of a natural fairy, gently floating where they stand, directing a turn, or handing out offerings for the fire, blessing passers by with smoking herbs, or eerily posing within installations, giving a foreboding sense of what’s to come in the show.

Enter into the clearing and you’re greeted by the over-the-top laughter of the FEAST’s King. Welcoming his guests for god knows what’s about to go down. There is worship and violence, animals and hooligans, fire and smoke, and food and drink. The king demands it all. His voice booming across the audience and the field. There is no need to preview more because you should be surprised, you should be picking your jaw up off your lap, and you should be just as eager to tell your friends to go there immediately and catch the remaining performances as the sun goes down on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Get your tickets immediately. 

If you can swing it, we recommend the VIP experience to have food and wine and other surprises served to you by the aforementioned goddesses of the forest. But the non VIP experience is just as enjoyable, just as close to the action and the King.

Here’s a pitch from Steve Gedra on the food produced for the event by his restaurant, Black Sheep.