The poster for the Hard Rock Freak Show convinced me to attend–specifically the conjoined twin skeleton–and I don’t feel at all shallow to admit it, but I left a true believer in the driving hard rock of Dead in 5. Wow, I can’t wait to see them again. Before tonight, I had never heard of the musical acts but I’d meant to catch the Gepetto Files, quite literally for years and I have soft spot for side shows performers. MyLovingPartner donned her best corset and bustle skirt and accompanied me to an evening of head banging and gentle weirdness. We are usually ASLEEP by the time the first band hit the stage — my 50 year old body wakes up at 5:00 AM with or without an alarm to remind it — so we were burning fumes. The jams fueled me to stay ’til the end, more successfully than my partner, I’m sad to say. But I’m quite glad to say, I am now a huge fan of “Dead in 5,” the headline group.
The gig was criminally underattended, let me say that upfront, though there seemed to be a pasable crowd assembling when the doors opened. The first two bands, ASS and Glass Lung were both no frills, straight ahead hard rock. I bet a “real” rock snob could identify specific variants to their styles, but basically they played tunes with crunchy guitar and a beat insistent enough to bang your head to. The bass player of ASS seemed to be the lynchpin of the operation, hammering a precise, pounding rhythm. (Full disclosure: I used to play bass and I still play cello, both acoustic and electric so sue me if I’m particularly drawn to the lower octaves.) Perhaps an undercurrent of rage ran through the tunes but damn, both bands had the energy and zeal of good garage bands.
The Doppelganger Side Show were, in effect, the freak show equivalent of garage band. They performed the standard stunts (nail in the nose, straight jacket escape, razor swallow, paper money stapled to the body) competently and with dutiful showmanship, akin to the simple “three chords and the truth” needed for garage rock. They weren’t the weirdest or slickest side show I’ve ever seen but I did leave my perfect seat to stand right up front for their act. When you have the opportunity to watch some guy hammer a four penny nail up his snout, you really have to get close for the full effect.
How did I love DI5? Let me count the ways.
The band members are each strongly charismatic and compelling on stage, from the bald guitar-technician who settled in and wailed on his Gibson, to the towering mountain of a lead singer with the commanding voice, the corsetted bass player with a sweet smile and a caustic sneer, the kilted drummer and the rhythmn guitarist who I believe used a beer bottle as a slide at one point. They are a powerful group clearly having a blast on stage and not afraid to give a great show. Damn, the smoke machine made me a nostalgia-monkey for the days when a night at the Blind Pig meant my clothes would smell like an ashtray for a month. It’s quite a compliment that Dead in 5 could make a man as old as dirt feel like a kid again.
I had to support the band with a few bucks so I spoke briefly with the lead singer’s partner at the merch booth. Though I love their logo– again, call me shallow but just seeing their design on the back of a work shirt early in the evening was enough to convince me to stay ’til their set, despite the fact that MyLovingPartner napped in her chair. However, t-shirts make me look like a sack of… potatoes so I opted to buy a jar of their “Demon’s Blood XXXX Hot Sauce.” I had some with my toast and eggs this morning–quite the yum. Come to find out the band members hail from all over, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor, Westland. Another way of putting it: they’re worth the drive to hear, IMHO. They’ve got a gig tonight at Churchill’s in Flint tonight and one in Westland next week. I bet I’ll be at one show or the other.
Standard proviso: for a writer, I have scandalously little interest in lyrics. I have no idea what their songs were “about.” This was music I enjoyed through the thumping in my chest and the shaking of my ass. To be honest though, it’s been too long since I rock and rolled that I forgot earplugs and the music was so loud I nearly passed out… or was it the beer or the sleep deprivation?
The Gepetto Files were exactly what I expected, that is, a foul-mouthed, beer swilling puppet of Van Gogh who performed magic tricks and berated the audience–and what’s not to like about that?
So just because I happened to see a cool poster, I took a chance on a show that proved to be more than an evening’s entertainment. I walked my sleepy LovingPartner home to tuck her into bed, my ears still aglow…er, ringing from Dead in 5.