Silence may be golden, and its sound indeed rocketed Simon & Garfunkel to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, but for the Asheville music community, the disciples of a noiseless society have provided the opposite of a good night’s sleep.
Like a sharp “shush” in a movie theater, all that came to an end on Dec. 30 when the Asheville Police Department announced that proposed changes to the city noise ordinance were part of a nefarious, multiyear plot by mimes, hell-bent on monopolizing the vibrant arts scene with their quiet ways. Chief David Zack revealed that a splinter cell of Marceauists — former librarians turned mute extremists — had blackmailed members of the Development Services Department and City Council with threats of revealing their internet browsing histories if their agenda wasn’t adopted.
Mike Rangel, co-owner of South Slope outdoor venue Rabbit Rabbit and an admitted metamfiezomaiophobe — someone whose fear of mimes also extends to clowns and people in disguise — says he’s not surprised that “those sickos” are to blame. On further examination, he notes that the city’s call for comically low decibels and a permitting process that would allow a performance space to host a maximum of 20 events that exceed whisper levels “flat-out reeks of dirty gloves and suspenders,” and is something he feels he should have caught earlier.
“And here I thought it was transplants and developers throwing their influence around,” Rangel says. “Shame on me.”
The would-be coup was uncovered by noted amateur sleuth Julian Dreyer. The detective — who says he “slums it” producing and engineering albums for the likes of Steve Martin, Mandolin Orange and The Avett Brothers at Echo Mountain Recording “until I can gumshoe full time” — noticed suspicious activity while downtown monitoring another subset of society.
“It’s true. I was clamming,” Dreyer says, pausing to give a 35-minute PowerPoint presentation on what he calls “the great American pastime” of covertly photographing men wearing reddish/pink shorts or pants. “Everywhere I went, a goofball with a painted face, striped shirt and beret was trapped in an invisible box or peeling a banana that didn’t exist.”
Having noted the bizarre pattern, Dreyer discovered “an especially suspicious” performer who “played air guitar all wrong” and, keeping a Sherlockian distance, followed him to a door on the back of the Urban Outfitters building. The mime knocked a coded rhythm (“Which is totally cheating,” Dreyer says), a woman in a near-identical costume opened the door, and our hero shouted, “Freeze!” That, he says, “worked way better than [he] expected,” allowing him to enter a subterranean space that had the elaborate plan written out on dry-erase boards, “just like in the movies.” Summoned by Dreyer, APD officers soon arrived and arrested the perpetrators, who Zack admits were “operating right beneath our noses.”
“Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Dreyer, we can all breathe a very loud sigh of relief,” he said, making good on his suggestion and throwing in a raspberry, followed by some improv hambone and an underarm flatulence symphony. “Hopefully, he can produce my album next.”