About 20 years ago, Ohio musician Chris Till saw a book stacked on the sidewalk. It was a children’s book, and the cover showed an anthropomorphic rabbit sheltering from the rain under a red mushroom. Till saved the book – I am a rabbit, illustrated by Richard Scarry – from the pile.
“This image of the rabbit under the mushroom Amanita muscaria, which is one of the shamanic mushrooms, I love this image,” Till said recently by phone from his home in Chillicothe, where he recently moved after living in Yellow Springs. . “It’s really peaceful – this little rabbit sheltering – and it is this image that sprouted the [band] name Toadstool Shadow.
Scarry’s illustrations also kicked off the idea for Toadstool Shadow’s 2020 psych-pop album, Rainbow nights, which tells the story of a 7-year-old rabbit who stays dry under a giant poisonous mushroom. “When the rain stops and night falls, he comes home alone into the rainbow night,” Till said. “There are seven songs: ‘Red Night’, ‘Orange Night’, Yellow Night, ‘Green Night’ and so on. And as he returns home, he continues to meet groups of fairies and elves playing music all night long. Some of them are initially quite nice and fun, so it’s fun to see these fantastic creatures. But as the night progresses it gets scary.
The trip set the tone for Toadstool Shadow, a self-proclaimed “elfcore” group that doubles as a concept art project based on the idea that groups of fairies and elves lurk in the bushes and alleys all around. around us. “A fairy tale opera was that French and German art form from the 1700s / 1800s that is kind of gone now, but they were telling serious stories through fairy tale characters,” said Till, a singer. and multi-instrumentalist who hosted “New Elf City,” an imaginary music festival on the moon last year. “A theme through all of this stuff is that there’s a hidden realm just outside of our common consciousness. “
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The little rabbit returned home safe and sound at the end of Rainbow nights, but the story was not over. The second part of the fairytale opera arrived last month with Toadstool’s album Shadow American Wood Elf Folk Songs, who catches up with the rabbit years later, at 19.
“He’s an intense bunny, sort of confused because he always remembers what happened to him when he was little. He had this fantastic visionary experience, but he never really knew if it was real, an illusion or a dream, ”Till said. “It was so deep for him, but it’s not something you can usually discuss.”
To resolve this tension, the Rabbit returns to Rainbow Nights, but this time he brings a video camera to document the experience, capturing the fairies and elves on film. Till and his band mates also created videos to accompany these new songs, which serve as a taxonomy of fantastic creatures, including unicorns, mermaids, elves and more.
Eventually, Toadstool Shadow, with the help of lead videographer Eli Bowsman, completed a film script and shot enough footage for a 40 minute film, “Folk Songs of the American Wood Elf,” which will be screened at the Clintonville Studio theater. 35 Saturday. , September 11 at 11:30 p.m. (The film features two Columbus actors: LeoDavid Fernandez as an elf and Mary Weilbacher as a mermaid.)
The late-night screening matches the mood of the film perfectly, said Till, who sees the experience as a callback to 1970s midnight screenings of low-cost B-movies. “It’s amateurish,” he said. “We had come to understand that as we went along. ”
Despite the fairy-tale setting and storybook characters, the film is not for children. On the one hand, this part of the story does not end well. Rabbit takes his video documentation to a sympathetic but incompetent psychiatrist, who diagnoses the rabbit with schizophrenia and prescribes psychoactive medication.
“It is about the reason, the nature of reality and what is really going on in the world. Is there really magic? Is there really another dimension? Till says. “I personally believe that there is another realm, another world adjacent to ours that we don’t notice.”
The Rabbit, however, is not doomed to a spell of psychoactive drugs and false diagnoses. Its story is not yet over. Like all good mythical trips, this epic Toadstool Shadow is a trilogy. Part three, Trip to Glass Mountain, comes next.