Trauma club

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The words "fetish extravaganza and freak show extreme" are highly evocative. They send minds racing with questions about what someone might encounter at such an event.

The organizers of Trauma, the event in question, aren't telling.

"We like people to come specifically not knowing what to expect," said Nick Wolak, who has organized the annual fetish party along with his coworkers at Evolved Body Art for the past seven years.

What they can promise: An interactive experience that incorporates bondage, discipline and sadomasochism and celebrates all varieties of alternative lifestyles, soundtracked by many of the city's most prominent DJs. Burlesque, hypnosis and a series of introductory BDSM classes are also on the docket.

This year's party, which starts at 9 p.m. tonight at the Bar of Modern Art, marks a return to the large-scale event of Trauma's early days.

For its first four years, the show was held at the now-defunct Downtown dance club Red Zone. When Red Zone closed, Wolak and co-founder Shawn Lower moved Trauma to Arena District rock club the Basement, a significantly smaller space that made for a more intimate experience.

Last year, they threw the party at Sugar Bar, the posh Arena District nightclub. The space was clearly too small to handle the renewed interest in Trauma, evidenced by the line of pierced, tattooed fetish freaks that stretched down Park Street and around the block.

"That was funny because we kind of freaked out the Arena District," Wolak said. "I can only imagine what the people who usually go to that district were wondering or thinking about what was going on at Sugar Bar that night."

Looking to accommodate the larger audience, Wolak and fellow organizer Jacob Wooten relocated their freak show to BoMA this year to take advantage of its size and splendor.

"It's an old church, so the setting seems pretty perfect for what we're trying to do," Wooten said. "It's fun. You can kind of explore. There's different stairwells to go to different levels. And there's just little corners that you can find. We've utilized just about all the room that we can. It's going to be voyeuristic, for sure."

Since Wooten became involved last year, he has incorporated philanthropy into Trauma. For the second straight year, the Halloween party will be followed by a Thanksgiving charity event.

"November 18, we're going to take 10 underprivileged families to Phia Salon in the Short North. Everyone in the family gets a haircut, shampoo, conditioning and a style," Wooten said.

Next, Andrea Haley from Devyne Productions will take professional family portraits. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, the Trauma folks will deliver the portraits to the families and present each one with a seven-course organic Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods. The families will be selected through a charity organization to be named.

If last year's Trauma added a charitable focus, this year's brings a local focus. While many events begin with local talent and expand to national acts later, Trauma began by bringing in marquee musical acts but has decided to go exclusively local this time out.

Wolak and Wooten have seen a trend toward supporting local businesses, and they're excited about what's happening in the local music scene.

It should be a fine display of hometown talent for a crowd that organizers expect to include lots of former Columbus residents returning home. As Wolak put it, just as one population returns for the OSU-Michigan game and a smaller population returns for ComFest, a certain subculture comes back to Columbus for Trauma.

People from inside and outside that culture are welcome, organizers said, as long as they're willing to stretch themselves.

"We like to have something to make everyone feel a little uncomfortable," Wolak said.


9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30

BoMA, Downtown