McBride in Wonderground.

Let me begin by saying that I am a huge fan of Jeff McBride, not just McBride the magician and teacher, but Jeff the person. Jeff manages to be a traditionalist and a visionary at the same time. That is quite a feat! McBride’s latest venture is a revamped version of the ‘Wonderground’ project that he first launched at the Palace Station Casino last year. It isn’t an easy concept to define, it is much more of an environmental experience than a traditional magic show. However don’t think that doesn’t mean you won’t see some magic that will blow your mind.

The new home for ‘Wonderground’ is at ‘Olive,’ a modest Mediterranean restaurant and Hookah bar. The location isn’t on the strip but in the heart of the ‘real’ Vegas in which actual people live. This adds considerably to the impact and fun that the evening offers. Let’s be honest most of the Casinos in Las Vegas are about as loose and hip as a Thanksgiving Dinner with relatives who become boring before the turkey even arrives. The atmosphere at the last ‘Wonderground’ was more like a party, with the capacity crowd all having a blast, while enjoying some World Class magic.

The venue was divided into two basic performing areas; a parlor style room that was designed for close-up magic and its slightly bigger brother, which has always been rather quaintly referred to as platform magic. The main stage is in the larger heart of the venue and I was impressed at the lengths that Jeff had gone to in order to create a really effective performing area. At the rear of the stage was a DJ who kept the mood jumping throughout the evening. The music was loud enough to keep your heart and body jumping, without being loud enough to inhibit the numerous conversations that were a huge part of the enjoyment of the event. The main stage was the focal point in a very noisy room, but there was a real appreciation of the acts performing there. Once again I saw Jason Andrews perform and again he impressed me greatly as a future performer who will be a major force to reckon with in the very near future

I performed a short set on the main stage and had a blast. It was a much easier location for a silent act and I was very happy to have had those 11 years headlining in comedy clubs to give me the skills, not only to focus the audience but have them listening and paying full attention. All that, and I didn’t distract from the party spirit. I had a great deal of fun working to such an eclectic and vital audience. ‘Wonderground’ is scheduled to take place on the third Thursday of each month, and it will take heaven and hell to keep me away from the next one!

Finally, a word or two about McBride himself, the master ringmaster who understood exactly what was happening. Amidst the apparent chaos Jeff was everywhere, making acute decisions that kept the party moving and grooving. It wasn’t just the magic he used as a subtle glue to create a cohesive evening, it was his genuine warmth and charm that made total strangers into a genuine group of kindred spirits. I think, I paid a $10 entrance fee that included two drinks; I don’t remember having that much fun for that little money since I arrived in Las Vegas.

Check out details on Jeff’s website and join in the fun at the next ‘Wonderground’ gathering.

~ by Nick Lewin on March 6, 2010.

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