On Saturday night, March 11, I joined Mr. Haunt and his team, “The Haunt Hunters,” to visit the Tri-State Area’s only year-round Haunted Attraction, “Brighton Asylum,” on the border of Clifton and Passaic, NJ. Besides being open for most of September and October, this particular haunt opens its doors approximately one weekend a month to showcase different themes, including “Santa’s Slay,” “Dark Valentine,” and this Saturday’s “Night of the Creeps,” which paid homage to some of our favorite modern horror movies.
The entire indoor walkthrough lasted about a half-hour on this frigid winter night. We saw characters working the line, referencing The Purge and once inside we met up with a very talkative Sheriff Hoyt from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The next hallway was lined with broken mirrors featuring “Candyman” scrawled in blood. Soon after, we were chased by a convincing Jack Torrance from The Shining. Further down we met Mother from Psycho, Jason Voorhees, and eventually Leatherface himself.
Deeper still was a creepy room with a television set and Samara from The Ring. One of the better elements was Freddy Krueger realistically forming out of a wall in a cloud of steam. And more clowns and zombies than you count! The crowd was enthusiastic and a great time was had by all! Brighton Asylum is located at 2 Brighton Ave., Passaic, NJ, on the Clifton border.
Darkside of the Con
March 17, 18 & 19
Impresario Jeff Mach, in cooperation with Vampire Freaks, the online Goth-culture community and clothing store, took over the Radisson Hotel in Piscataway, NJ for the three-day St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The majority of attendees including a vast array of vendors took overnight rooms on Friday and Saturday to enjoy late night parties and imbibing events. Single-day visitors, however, were present in force, especially Saturday.
Musical events galore were ongoing, and included such stars of the scene as Aurelio Voltaire, whose Anti-Folk style and stand-up monologue are notorious for spoofing the Goth scene; recognized veterans of the NYC music community, Night Gallery; and NJ-based industrial rockers Xentrifuge; plus many more acts. DJs manned the turntables at various venues within the hotel grounds, such as The Villains Ball, and kept things lively until 4 a.m. for the willing and able.
Lecture halls featured slide shows touching on various topics such as the history, literature and psychology relevant to the dark-interests community.
There were dedicated vendor areas where large inventories of steampunk and vampire-style clothes and accessories were on sale, as well as individual hotel rooms for smaller scale vendors hawking jewelry, accessories, crafted items, fetish accoutrements and artwork.
Attendees chose to appear in thematic attire, ranging from basic black to outlandish costumes. A giant “Green Man” on stilts and faux leafy attire roamed the halls, affectionately embracing passersby. Friendly monsters, sexy vamps, top-hatted gents, and winged creatures abounded. It wasn’t just the eye-candy, but the sense of camaraderie that drew the most appreciation, such that next year’s 2018 Darkside of the Con is already in the works and reservations at the Radisson are going fast.
The Red Party
Sisters of Mercy Theme Night
With live performance by The Bootblacks
Saturday, March 18, saw another monthly iteration of the well-attended Red Party hosted by Mandana Banshee and DJ Sean Templar, now consistently held at the Mercury Lounge which is technically on the leading edge of Manhattan’s Soho (SOuthside of HOuston) district.
The theme for the night was the Sisters of Mercy, paying homage to the seminal British rock band that, founded in 1980 and defunct since 1986, laid a cornerstone in the edifice called Gothic rock, with all that it implies musically and otherwise. Little known fact: Frontman for the Sisters, Andrew Eldritch (born Andrew William Harvey Taylor), took as his stage name “Eldritch,” which the dictionary defines as an adjective meaning “eerie; weird; spooky.”
Besides regular deejays Sean and Jarek, the guest deejay was Glen Maryansky, who plays synthesizer and percussion as well as doing the digital programming for Tiers, a delightfully morose, minor-key ensemble that played the Red Party last July.
In keeping with the theme, we heard—and the crowd danced enthusiastically to—“Black Planet,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Dominion,” “This Corrosion,” “Lucretia (My Reflection),” and “Marian,” plus many more. This was a particular pleasure, because nowadays—in their efforts to introduce new and rare tracks—deejays sometimes neglect the Sisters of Mercy as mere classics and “old hat.” Maryansky served the cause with the Sisters’ “Vision Thing,” “Detonation Boulevard” and the obscure “Long Train.” He also broadcast Australian alternative band Midnight Oil’s “The Dead Heart,” a 1986 single that later appeared on their album Diesel and Dust.
Notables in the crowd included DJ Joe Hart and scene patrician Jeffo Bang who were spotted in the audience, enjoying the spectacular and mind-jarring performance by frantic, frenetic, electro-industrial quartet Bootblacks, whose deliciously jittery and explosive music managed to somehow include mesmerizing and appetizing hooks as well as a soundtrack by which to have a nervous breakdown.
For combining artful, dance-friendly deejay sets with entertaining live acts, the Red Party seems to have mastered the game.
At The Drive In
March 22, 2017
On this night I fulfilled a 20-plus-year desire to see what is widely recognized as one of the greatest rock songs of all time, “One Armed Scissor,” performed live by the extraordinary band, At The Drive In off the 2000 album, Relationship of Command. This punk-emo quintet formed in Texas back in 1993 and broke up in 2001, splitting into the progressive-rock Mars Volta and the more accessible emo band, Sparta. Both those bands have since gone by the wayside, but At The Drive In has reunited twice since then, once in 2009 and again in 2016. Last year’s reunion had them booked for Terminal 5, but was cancelled at the very last minute due to a sudden illness of lead vocalist Cedric Bixler, so this 2017 appearance at the same venue was doubly anticipated.
An eager crowd of alternative music fans stood in the brutally cold wind-tunnel that is 56th Street’s extreme West Side, to be funneled at an agonizingly slow pace into the cavernous venue where there are several levels of balconies overlooking a large floor space and numerous bars where chips and booze are sold to those wearing identifying wrist bands.
The opening band, Le Bucherettes, came on at 8 p.m., fronted by a demonic, guitar-armed female vocalist and free-form dancer/contortionist in high heels who performed a deranged stage ballet while accompanied by a hard and heavy bass player and relentless bass drum assault. She and the bass guitarist alternatively manned keyboards producing harsh electronic effects. As unpleasant as it sounds, it had a certain appeal, and certainly set the mood for the headliners.
At The Drive In exploded on stage shortly after 9 p.m. with “Arcarsenal,” off the 2000 album, Relationship of Command. Bixler’s screams and the wild chaos of the instruments started then and there, and continued unabated through their 11-song set constituting an orgy of delightful excess. At times, the volume diminished and the pace slowed down, allowing the audience to enjoy some luscious, melodious hooks and enigmatic lyrics. What makes At The Drive In so great and so special is the unique fusion of raw punk with masterful, crowded arrangements featuring long and virtuoso instrumental segments.
Bixler’s acrobatics on stage and ferocious lead vocals (the instrumentalists also sing accompaniment) have not been in any measure subdued over the 25 years that he has been at it. Whether screaming at the top of his lungs or high-speed rapping, he leads the band in what has to be the most energetic, pressurized execution of a rock music show that is physically possible.
An unrestrained mosh pit developed, into which Bixler himself leaped and crowd-surfed briefly. This is ironic, because in 2001 he interrupted a show and left the stage when he couldn’t persuade the crowd to stop slam-dancing.
After the 11th song, “Catacombs,” they took a brief break, then returned with “Governed By Contagions,” off the soon to be released 2017 album, in-ter a-li-a., due out on May 5. Then, of course, to the delight and ultimate satisfaction of the audience, the show concluded with the final encore, the masterpiece, the magnum opus, “One Armed Scissor.” There were no calls for more, because this is nothing more that the world of rock music has to offer beyond this jewel, this classic, this masterstroke of musical perfection.
Impresario and promoter, Sir William Welles, famous for his widely used New Goth City website which provides multi-angle focus on the nationwide Goth scene, including an invaluable calendar of local and national events, has announced that on May 4 he will unveil a much-anticipated project termed “Xenogoth.” This promises “to propel Goth culture future-forward by inspiring fashion designers, artists, musicians, DJs, event promoters, and Goth individuals alike who crave something new, ultra-modern, and energizing to their precious scene.”
We have since learned that everything implied by the term Xenogoth will be introduced at the next Redrum Ball and will include elements of classic Goth music and fashion, combined with science fiction lore, cosplay and comic book aesthetics. The Redrum Ball is scheduled to take place on May 28 at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC’s Soho neighborhood.
April Tool’s Day
Wappingers Falls, NY
Is there any dispute that Tool is the greatest heavy band in the history of rock? With their uncanny knack for fusing thunderous rhythms to novel melodies, and layered complexity to Maynard James Keenan’s frank, challenging lyrics as well as disturbingly creative videos, they have truly brought this genre of music to another level, which no other band has attained. Perhaps they’re not for everyone, but I don’t know who is left out of their fandom. Anyhow, they have the endorsement of Alex and Allyson Grey—who are a sort of conduit to the Universal Mind—the New Age artists who own and operate the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM)—a non- denominational spiritual retreat, museum and vatican of the Cosmic Consciousness—on the Hudson River in upstate NY.
Every April 1, the acolytes of CoSM join with devotees of the band Tool to stage a semi-religious and somewhat incongruous celebration of the band’s body of work in an environment of mystical and hallucinogenic art for which the Greys are world-famous. This year, for the first time since 2012, CoSM was privileged to host the supremely accomplished Tool tribute band Schism, whose mastery of the original band’s sound is nothing short of astonishing. So polished is NY-based Schism’s proficient reproduction of the repertoire that they are endorsed and recommended on Tool’s website.
Alex Grey’s art, termed “visionary,” is influenced by experience with hallucinogens, and represents themes of universality and transcendence through the integration of concrete religious, anatomical and philosophical imagery into kaleidoscopic visual metaphors. To some extent it resembles Hindu and Buddhist art, but emphasizes the inter-connectedness of all religions, philosophies and sciences—Western as well as Eastern—for contributing to the Cosmic Mind. As such, there is a definite tie-in with themes specified in the lyrics of Tool’s songs, touching as they do upon metaphysics, cultural anthropology and the theories of psychologist Karl Jung.
A further and deeper connection between the visual artist and the musical group developed when Alex Grey was recruited to contribute album cover art and to collaborate on dream-like music videos. Thus, on the April 1 occasion, in the intimate environment of CoSM’s parlor, both Alex and his wife Allyson held a frank and insightful talk on their history, their inspiration and their involvement in producing artwork for Tool. Both Alex and Allyson showed themselves to be amazingly warm, generous and profound as well as utterly sincere in their interacting with inquisitive and adoring guests.
Sixty-five miles north of NYC, CoSM is a 40-acre sanctuary where there is a main building that provides dormitory-like accommodations for overnight visitors and houses a vast collection of artworks; a retail shop where artifacts, clothing and accessories designed in their signature style are sold; a dining hall which doubles as a concert space; and the Mushroom Café where a charming staff of enlightened hipsters serve healthy but tasty sandwiches, soft drinks and deserts. Wristbands were applied to designate who had access to the dormitories upstairs and those who were attending the concert.
We wandered the halls and the grounds, taking in the wondrous art to be found everywhere then took a nature hike and visited totem poles, quiet spaces, shrines, and an intricately designed, domed gazebo in the woods, conducive to solitude, meditation and silence.
The climax of April Tool’s Day finally came at 9 p.m. when Schism took the stage in the great dining hall. Opening with “Intolerance,” Schism sent the room into a state of heightened awareness and perpetual motion as they embarked on three hour-long sets, covering essentially the entire body of work, with two short intermissions. Familiar as well as obscure videos shown in the background including the groundbreaking “Sober” video and other Adam Jones animations as well as those with Alex Grey images set to motion. A bonfire roared behind the building, casting an orange glow through the windows of the hall. The indoor audience was able to enjoy the spectacle from within the warm concert hall and those outside were able enjoy the music as they danced by the fire.
Unparalleled stamina was called forth from Schism to pull off the 10-plus-minute-long “Right in Two,” from the 10,000 Days album and “Reflection,” from the Lateralus album. The title track off the latter album, “Lateralus,” itself around 10 minutes in length, served as the fully satisfying conclusion to the show, after which worshipful fans crowded the performers to extend congratulations and express gratitude for an exemplary performance. Schism mastermind and guitarist, Keith Williams, gifted bassist Sean Patrick Murray, incredible drummer Don Pusateri, and rapturous vocalist Angelo Rivera received the adulation with appreciation and friendly good cheer.