At The Ritz, The Lotus Kids, Cyanide Sunrise, Sunflower Dead and Hurt, along with others took the stage. Busting out everything from an accordion to a violin, the bands varied in musical style, but shared the key ingredient of talent.
The Lotus Kids point out, “just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.” They speak of odd occurrences with the Wizard of Oz and how it affects their lives in the song “Oh My!” They also do a Jefferson Airplane cover, “White Rabbit.”
It’s like a flannel grunge influence meets the 60’s and 70’s hippie stoner rock music. I would bet Ozzy and Led Zeppelin influenced the band, along with Nirvana. They’re melodic and dramatic, having a Hawaiian lei on the mic stand, and a bug key chain around the neck of the front man.
Cyanide Sunrise offers a blue shirt with an unicorn that is green, like the Hulk, and pissed off, with purple hair and a glowing yellow horn, rearing its lip up. Nine Mile drive, a band from Arcadia, FL, and the theatrical Sunflower Dead loom in the audience. The Ritz serves food, including $1 coney dogs until 7 p.m.; there are four round booths that line the wall, fit for groups, a series of four-top tables, bordered by stools at high-top tables.
There’s enough room to mosh or dance, as the band calls for it. Guitars boarder above a mirrored wall with an extended cushioned bench seat. An over-sized wild zebra-striped drum kit hangs from the ceiling, an octagon metal rings of lights hang overhead with varying lights that could easily be converted into a club dance floor.
The stage is big enough to do a theatrical play. Merch booths to the right, along the extended bench seat, making a comfy spot for merchandise guys. Bar in back, which is before the entrance door, the DJ shouts out to Cyanide Sunrise, exclaiming he can’t wait to see them play.
Nine Mile Drive’s lead singer leaps off stage after asking, “you like this song?” Headbanging, putting his arm around audience members who sing into the mic with him, he jumps back on stage without missing a beat. The high energy gets people into the show; the guys have to run from the Frankenstorm, Hurricane Sandy, as they drive back to Florida at the end of the show.
Things pop and crackle while instruments switch. On the last day of the tour, they thank “Fat Chris” and Cyanide Sunrise, as well as Absynthe Junk, Smile Empty Soul and Hurt. They play a song about drinking, but are asking for a water; the song is called “Colors,” about “drinking away the pain.”
The lead singer of Cyanide Sunrise runs to the back of the club, which is really the front, up to the bar. Meanwhile, the lead singer on stage howls, “I drink to make this feeling go away… Paint my thoughts in colors.”
Wafting odor of pooh fills the nostrils. The back of the lead singer’s denim vest says “Eat Shit,” with an upside down cross. They sing a song to all those with friends and families in the military.
The guitar almost looks like a slab of tiger’s eye, dark with a distinctive brown striping down the center. The finger tapping and slapping bassist has a matte black finish with curving that looks molded like a piece of art. The drummer dominates attention, with double bass drums pounding your heart.
The Shiny silver drum kit looks like either steel or aluminum finish, having a mirrored effect with the lights on it. They play “Prisoner of War,” and more people filter to the front of the stage to knock heads around. Some wriggle back and forth, like the lead singer of the first band. He has denim cut off at the ankles, with pants underneath, probably because of the cold weather.
They ask if the crowd wants to throw down. Hands go into the air, heads pound and bodies sling around. The lead singer jumps back into the crowd to shake hands with everyone as he finished up the set.
The crowd disperses, and drinks are refilled, as the process of set change begins, an in-house announcer and DJ spins some tracks of metal to keep the music in the air. The guy I had interviewed earlier, Jamie, reveals to me that he did our phone interview naked, barring it all in the bathroom. His band mates from Sunflower Dead had disclosed this information to me as soon as I told them I asked about being an unicorn.
“Oh, you’re the girl! We thought he was taking a long time in the bathroom. When he finally came out, we asked what had taken him so long, and he said he just did an interview naked, saying you were asking all kinds of questions, like about unicorns and what was the other one?”
“Yogurt,” I replied. They nodded a confirmation. That gives the unicorn question a whole new meaning if he was naked.
We talked of the band Kill Whitey, my 100th book release party in Toledo, their touring schedule, living in Philadelphia, and how when fate challenges you, you must keep going. Altered Paradigm sets up on stage, checking, “one, two, toast. Hey, hey.”
Sparkly, reverse hombre drum kit, fading from silver to what looks like purple in the red lights with huge glitter flake. Lead has a matte black guitar, while the bass player has wood. He checks, “toast.”
The lead singer has a slightly grown out Mohawk, the kind intentionally left with a little hair on the sides, long enough and curly to lay nicely when need business. The bassist has a red baboushka on his head, what looks like a Misfits face on his arm, a skull and cross bones though. The other guitar player has a black and white guitar, black pants and a shirt with a studded belt lying beneath his red boxers that are popping out over his jeans.
The bassist is from Denver, while the drummer is zen, as he’s always on time, from St. Louis, MO, Eric Miller. The evil genius from horror movies, the birthday guitarist, is from Columbus, OH. Joshua does a solo with both hands on the neck of his guitar, a chain drags across his black jeans.
He changes to a white guitar that has a black boarder around the edges. When the white guitar faces front, it looks pure white; there’s only a small edge of black edging visible when he turns to the side. Their next song by Rhythm Core, their Big Sister in the industry, “Feel a Whole Lot Better.”
The drummer sports the Duck Dynasty look, long wavy hair and a full beard. He taps at the drum, keeping time without seeming to break a sweat, making eye contact with fellow band members. Different people are in front of the stage, mostly females line the front of the crowd; whereas, before, mostly guys from other bands stood in support, girls jam out, wriggling their butts with a slight bend at the knee.
As the song “Who’s the Hypocrite?” plays a melodic rock, everyone is asked to go crazy as the guitar solo comes in. It picks up the pace, but not quite to punk or metal, just rock, which fools you. The next song hits harder with screams.
“I am Your Fatal Disease” could be commercially marketed. Guys jump high in the sky in unison. Josh, pulling a 360 as he jumps with his guitar, sings “Cause You Know.” Being on RMG label, the band has been to 48 states, Canada, Mexico, Japan and China.
People raise their hands, as if taking an oath or asking a teacher a question, looking at each other inquisitively. Lead guitarist and bassist point at each other like they’re shooting guns instead of playing guitar. The drummer and guitarist hit a few hard notes before emptying the stage.
PVC-framed title art work is pulled down. Up next is Absinthe Junk with a sparkly blue drum set. A girl wearing a Mackinac hoodie sets a metallic violin next to the front of the stage and grabs a rack of guitars handed to her; she picks up a candy apple red and white guitar, tunes it and strips off her hoodie, transferring her unassuming look.
The glasses come off, a studded guitar strap goes on. She sports a submissive leather choker with a slave ring. The bassist has a black guitar with a Batman emblem on it.
Other guitar player also has the Duck Dynasty look. The lead singer jumps up and bounces off the drum set kit with a foot exploding into the air. The redhead erupts with a scream, transitioning between guitar and violin with ease.
The Sunflower Dead guys have donned their dark, theatrical makeup, lurking, intermingling in the crowd like zombies seeking out prey. The fiery redhead screams until her voice cracks. She strips down to a tank top that features a skull wearing hot pink sunglasses, sporting rainbow vision, and a long zipper up the back; she wails on the electric violin, haunting addition to the bass, guitar and drum.
She switches back to a black and silver crackle stripe guitar and gives breathy moans of melody into the mic. The guitarist holds down a melody that innocently grows deep. The bassist bops around, fingering strings, and the drummer pounds the beat harder, intensifying the song. Beat doubles up, the bass felt deep within the chest, then she wails an echoing cry and says come by for stickers and hugs.
The guitarist is more than able to carry out a tune, jamming out some amazing riffs. As the music ends, the lead singer puts her glasses back on, transforming back into just another ordinary girl. Lights off.
Cyanide Sunrise’s tattooed lead singer, as well as the bassist, sport the Eat Shit logo. “Make a Scene with Charlie Sheen” jams. The gregarious lead singer is amped up, full of smiles and ready to get the crowd involved, signing to people, pointing, winking, making contact with everyone in the crowd.
The crowd responds by being more lively: shaking loose locks of hair, foot stomping, looking at each other with smiles that say they like the music and the experience. A gold, shiny guitar catches attention with an amazing solo that sounds like flying. Haunting echoes, the white guitar jams, then Eddie joins the first soloist, creating a three-guitar jam session that is not competing but well blended.
The playing is clean and well rehearsed. Shout out to all the bands, saying they want to take singing lessons from Sunflower Dead, they get back to the music. “Lips on Your Lips” builds up to an orgasmic explosion, like build up during sex – slow caresses grip a little more powerfully, until nails dig into the skin; desire builds up to the point where you just need a break, so you turn your back, but it’s calling to the point where you can’t stay away: “Give It To Me Again Tonight.”
The lead singer smiles slyly. “Honey, that’s just what we do best.” Hitting hard like hate sex, it ends abruptly.
“The Realist” is the last song, which starts with a marching beat and a guitar riff like a soaring airplane. The three guitarists meld together, synching up, before exploding apart as the drums slam and heads band. The crowd is moving, and the gold guitarist looks like he plays til it hurts and keeps going like a soldier on a mission; though there’s not as big of a crowd as there was for them at the Jackson County Fairgrounds for the Rockapalooza show this summer, they play as if the crowd is massive.
As Sunflower Dead sets up, their merch guy slinks to the empty dance floor and starts break dancing, holding his body weight on his arms while hopping in the air and spinning himself in a 360. The announcer says, “you can keep doing that all night. You’ve got me entertained like a m’fr.”
As abruptly as he started, he leaps up with a sly smile and every so slightly bows, as people clap and cheer. A cold breeze blows in from the side door. The pale makeup with dark sunken eyes given an ominous look the the band in black and white makeup. A accordion is tuned next to a flying-V guitar that is black with silver outline, a sharp look.
The drummer dons a silver tie and black suit with long hair and makeup that makes it look like his lips are sewn shut. The bassist calmly folds his hands, like a statue come to life. His red arm band on black suit and black tie reminds of a zombie Nazi soldier at a funeral.
The accordion player has a stark, pale white head with black lightning bolts etched across it, like uncle fester being zapped in an electric chair. Jamie’s navy jump suit is like a mechanic, his eyes dripping blood, letters etched into his forehead. A solemn accordion plays, as each member moves slowly, like jerkily animated dolls.
A fury brings the band to life, jamming like electric shocks through the brain. People are drawn to the front like moths to a flame, filling quickly, as if summoned by the music. Jamie meanders like a disjointed doll across the stage, and the accordion player’s evil grin is like something out of a twisted horror movie; his blacked out eye contacts add to the effect, causing him to look like PinHead’s skinhead cousin.
The accordion is down, and he commands attention with his vocals. Venturing around the stage, after jolted by hidden electric shocks that explode, they disjoint the distortion feedback like evil carnies. The lead singer hovers above the crowd, lurking over them, while Jamie slinks around with a distant look in his eyes that gives him the feel of Jason from Friday the 13th or Michael Myers from Halloween, the strong but silent type that makes you want to break out in a run.
The lead singer adds spikes, and they do a haunting cover of “I’ll be Watching You” that makes it sound like the stalking of a serial killer. Screaming, “every move you make…” then calming to an echo, “I’ll be watching you,” nearly making you shiver. Disjointed zombies crawling across the stage, dredging up beast that make the people dance as if under a voodoo spell, dance like marionettes, the music pulling the strings of their limbs.
The singer points the mic stand like Alice Cooper would point his cane at the crowd, commanding them to respond to the music like a lion tamer. Jimmy is on the flying-V, lips looking like the Rocky Horror Picture Show or Baby from House of 1000 Corpses. The lead looks around like Quasimodo seeing the light of day for the first time. Jamie lurches off stage, entering the crowd while head banging.
The crowd erupts with screams and hands flying in the air. Even after the band leaves the stage, an eerie air lingers, like the feeling of a haunted house filled with spirits eager to possess the unsuspecting.
As the crowd disperses, they are pumped, more likely, like full of spirits eager to wreck havoc with a stolen body. Wild cackles right through the air. Alcohol flows and the vibe slowly dissolves into the club that seems to be draining blood slowly, emptying a victim’s body.
It’s like a dark portal opened and doesn’t want to close, now that Sunflower Dead is done. A girl has a purse with the face of the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty. The villain is like a reminder that though the dark portal has closed, the darker side is watching, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce at the given moment.
That veil from the Day of the Dead grows thinner. The drummer asks what I thought, his blackened out eyes staring at me like a black pit. The only things he’s missing is a creepy trash picked rocking horse hanging from the ceiling to complete that voodoo feel that is known to stem from voodoo capitals like New Orleans.
As he slips away to tend to his drums, the Smile Empty Soul cherry red glossed drum kit shines on stage, the Remm Crown prominent on the front. A wooden bass glistens with a shimmery center, the rich dark edges fade into the dark background. Incense waft as they scream on stage with the pain of a tortured soul being pulled from a body.
Jamie slips into the chair next to me, not saying a word at first, merely throwing his feet up onto an empty chair. I ask him if he’s heard of Stolen Babies, saying they would fit well with them, and he smiles. “Actually, we’re supposed to be going out with them soon.”
Patchouli hippie smell, as the Ween song says, fills the air. Smile Empty Soul’s bassist whips his ass-long dreds in the air. Screaming, the lead singer’s guitar is covered in stickers, varying from NIN to nautical stars.
Grunge meets metal with the funk of a rock star. Lead changes to another guitar, this one white, still covered in stickers, from Machine to 32 Leaves, and yes, a nautical star. Their steady groove hits hard, then retracts, like a rattlesnake, striking with a venomous bite and recoiling with a twitching tail, keeping beat before the next strike that can drop you to your knees.
Cymbals lightly tap, like the lights going out, falling victim to the biting sound. Jamie slinks up next to me. He’s a Libra, September 28, and tells me it’s the only zodiac sign without blood; he says he’s gangsta and shows pics to prove it.
Setting up on stage, a black drum set with white letters “Hurt.” At first is like a normal rock band, then they add the soothing sound of a violin into the mix. Flying off stage, the lead singer meanders with the violin to the back of the club, beyond the crowds, seemingly looking for a moment of peace and escape before returning, playing in the midst of the crowd, leaping back on stage and showing that a violin can be hard core, tapping the strings with the bow and violently caressing the instrument.
The resulting sound can bring you to tears of heartfelt joy from the point of sorry. It takes a journey of emotions through music effortlessly, like it should be, embodying the name Hurt through music that can be felt like a glimpse into the soul. A soft but powerful voice, like one you’d hear from beyond the grave, one you cannot deny, as you feel the words all the way into the core of your being.
They don’t rely on flash and trash gimmicks, just the music itself. Too bad this show had to compete with the Tigers in the World Series; although, the light crowd allows for hair tips with the bands. The dude with long dreds sporting the patchouli washes his hair with a home-made blend of ingredients that include baking soda and essential oils, like lavender; his wife helps to organize his roots as needed.
The lead singer of Hurt switches to a violin he made from parts found at a thrift store, a traditional violin with a strong sound not found in a guitar, haunting beauty. He said it was old and tired, and he could relate, advising the crowd to appreciate found beauty. The guitar player switches to a wooden acoustic, both instruments unassuming and simple, but stand out, because of this, simplistic gorgeousness.
Here’s a word to the wise, he screams. “Just shut your mouth! And drive the car!”
Jamie says he thinks Hurt will be big. The violinist is phenomenal, and I’d love to see a cello in the mix, but Fear and Loathing bomber glasses add to the effect. The band ends and a lady screams, “I got to rock it out; I never get to rock it out, and I did, I did, I did!”
Band members come up to chat, and love is felt between bands, a low drama show that can be felt. As the young, cute cocktail servers clean up the club, bands scurry to give each other hugs and help load up gear. Luckily, I brought my jumper cables in case of emergency; never hurts to help the bands.
Marisa Williams is the author of 100 books. She earned her Master’s in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University. For more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.wix.com/thorisaz/photography.