Enjoying the cooking, chatting and live music in complete darkness might seem like a bit of an odd way to spend an evening, but for The Blind Café Experience attendees it turns out to be a very enjoyable night, where other senses are heightened and a deeper connection flourishes.
The Boulder-based organization, which specializes in creating carefully curated events in a blacked-out venue, offers a series of intimate dinner concerts at the Wesley Chapel at the University of Colorado in Boulder from Thursday until the 23rd. October.
“Wesley Chapel is our home, which means it’s the first place we hosted a ‘Blind Café Orchestra: The Music in the Dark Experience’ in 2010,” said musician Brian “Rosh” Rocheleau, founder and director of The Blind Café Experience. director. “Very excited to be back and restarting from our original location.”
While the unique concept was born in Boulder, Rocheleau took it on the road with Blind Cafés that have popped up in Seattle, Austin, Texas, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.
Pop star Katy Perry – while on tour in 2017 – took her team to a Blind Café Experience pop-up in Chicago, just days before her 33rd birthday.
The unusual offer is also sought after by businesses and individuals looking to provide something in lieu of a standard team building exercise or retreat.
“There is something powerful going on at our Blind Café events that goes beyond a unique and cool experience in the dark,” said Rocheleau. “When we completely lose our sight in the Blind Café, there is a surrender of control that has to happen. Participants do not have their cell phones to check in usually every few minutes. They have to trust their colleagues and our blind staff to navigate the experience. “
Tickets for dates from Boulder to Wesley Chapel are $ 85 and all participants must provide full proof of vaccination prior to admission. Photos of vaccination cards can be emailed to [email protected] during the ticket purchase process. Masks should be worn where appropriate.
“Participants must learn to listen better, be more attentive to their presence in the moment and dig deeper into themselves to communicate with each other,” said Rocheleau. “All of their usual little habits are broken and there’s a window there – while they’re in the dark – to approach a different way of relating to their world.”
The experience turns out to be somewhat meditative and zen. When people come out of total darkness, it almost feels like waking up from a dream. This is often done in a subtle way, with the lighting of a candle at the end of the evening.
“There’s something about being in pure 100% organic darkness with others, with guide dog puppies, dark chocolate, some really cool sighted and blind musicians and artists playing music. live that gives audiences the experience of feeling music on a fully embodied level, ”Rocheleau mentioned.
Pricing has yet to be revealed for upcoming dates in Boulder, but a “mystery meal” is part of the fun. Vegan and gluten-free options will be available.
“I met Rosh on September 11, 2001 and we’ve been close friends ever since,” said Dango Rose, founding member of Elephant Revival and artist of Blind Café Experience who will be performing on the Boulder dates. “He invited me to play in the dark with him in 2018 and I found it to be an experience that opened my heart. Being in 100% darkness catalyzes the active listening experience as it promotes adherence to a true presence in every passing moment.
The experience proves to be impactful for participants and musicians who seek to perform in an environment completely opposite to that of a typical spotlighted.
“Without our regular visual social cues, a whole new world of authentic relationships opens up that is difficult to describe without first experiencing it,” said Rose. “Conversations take on more depth and meaning and music is heard and integrated in a way that has been lost in our modern screen-based society. A true personal and interpersonal connection occurs at The Blind Café Experience in a deep and meaningful way. “
The nuances and flavors of the food and the elements of the live soundtrack are really eye-catching when visibility is limited.
“Kind of like when you were 16 and you really felt the music – every word, every melody meant something because you’re fully focused and embodied by it,” Rocheleau said. “The experience of loud music in the dark creates that experience – on some level – that most of us cannot come back to on our own.”
Before forming his organization, Rocheleau discovered a blind cafe while touring Reyjkavik, Iceland. He later made a blind friend to Naropa in a diversity class and began to think about ways he could bring sighted and visually impaired people together through the arts.
As a musician he has always looked for opportunities to unite people and the strength of his award winning social impact organization is proof of that.
Over 50,000 people have experienced The Blind Café to date and with the addition of new dates as COVID restrictions loosen somewhat, that number is only growing.
As well as providing attendees with a meaningful evening, it also allows attendees to experience what it’s like to navigate the world – at least part of it – without a view.
“They are offered a new perspective,” said Rocheleau. “We have seen from hundreds of letters from our guests how it has changed their way of seeing the world, how they relate to blind people and people with disabilities, and how they just feel a deep sense of gratitude.”
Richie Flores, the Blind Café’s main ambassador for the blind, is also one of the group’s main artists. He is a songwriter and musician who will perform for the Boulder dates.
There will also be a positive social impact Q&A with Blind Café’s legally blind ambassadors and a certain amount will go to initiatives that help puppies become certified guide dogs.
“My favorite moments come from recognizing that the public was no longer caught up in the ideas of what the future is going to be here,” said Rocheleau, “they are in the present moment”,
The Blind Café also hosts events at the Dairy Arts Center and will host intimate dinner concerts there in the spring of April 14-17.
“There is something about sharing and revealing experiences with each other through conversation, as well as breaking bread together, as well as actively listening to live music that just hits the body, l ‘spirit and soul,’ said Rocheleau.