The folks organizing the inaugural Portland Performing Arts Festival hoped to make a splash in the first year.

They found the right guys to make that happen in Fritz Grobe and
Stephen Voltz.

The two, best known as the performance duo EepyBird, will present a live version of their Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments viral video at 6 tonight in Portland Monument Square.

It’s the kick-off of the festival, which features four days of concerts, dance recitals, plays and various other events in and around Portland. Many of the events – both those associated directly with the festival or the related Fringe festivals – require a ticket or paid admission.

But tonight’s event is free and open to anyone who wants to have fun.

Grobe and Voltz have performed their so-called experiment across the globe. They became famous because of a video they shot up in Buckfield in 2006. It went viral, and set the two on a path of crazy adventure that they follow still today.

Their experiment consists of dropping Mentos candies into bottles of Coke – they are using Coke Zero now, instead of Diet Coke, because it is less sugary and easier to clean up. When combined, the Mentos candies and soda erupt into a series of geysers, sending Coke 25 feet in the air. They will use 108 bottles of Coke and 648 Mentos tonight in Monument Square.

Their performance begins at 6 p.m. with an introduction. The experiments begin at 6:15 and will be over three minutes later.

“And then we begin cleaning up,” says Grobe. “Because we create a really big mess.”

Somewhere around 100 million people have seen the video. Wearing white lab coats and goggles, Grobe and Voltz have appeared on TV many times, and performed their experiments live on three continents. They have won four Webby awards, and been nominated for two Emmy Awards.

But tonight’s show marks the first time they have done their experiment in a major way in Maine.

“There were about four people watching when we made the video up in Buckfield, and we’ve done a couple of events at the Celebration Barn (in South Paris). But this is our first big show in Maine,” Grobe said.

“When this first caught on online, we expected it to last 15 minutes at most. But here we are six years later, and the performance that people will see in Portland we have done in Istanbul, Las Vegas, Dubai, Paris, the Philippines – all over the world. It’s great to be able to bring it home.”

In the event of rain tonight, the performance will move to Friday.

A few tidbits:

Don’t be late. The experiment itself lasts just a few minutes. “We will spend 15 minutes talking about the science of Coke and Mentos and the crazy stories of how we ended up on the path we are on. So we will talk for about 15 minutes, but within three minutes (the experiment) will be all over. It takes about three hours to set up and three minutes to actually do it,” he said.

It’s probably not a good idea to bring lawn chairs or anything like that, Grobe said. The best crowds stay on their feet and whoop it up. “We perform at all kinds of events, and sometimes get upwards of 15,000 people. We like to have fun. Once we put on the lab coats and goggles, folks start cheering. They know what’s about to happen.”

Prepare to scream. The louder the better.

Grobe’s involvement in the Portland Performing Arts Festival won’t end tonight. He directs the play “Thumbs Up,” presented by the Celebration Barn Ensemble, on Saturday and Sunday. It is a funny look at a woman hitchhiking her way up the coast of Maine, and the people she meets along the way.

Four actors – Amanda Huotari, Ian Bannon, Kelly Nesbitt and Kavi Montanaro – portray 44 characters in the span of an hour.

 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

 

[email protected]

 

Twitter: pphbkeyes

 

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