The Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow plus musical extravaganza presented dangerous, extreme and even death-defying stunts in a colorful and outrageous night at The Regent on January 24. Billed as a psychobilly and heavy metal spectacle, the event was very theatrical, way over the top and, in most aspects, incredibly silly and campy.
The shocking and fantastical bill opener — The Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow — featured the talents of Dan Sherry, an illusionist and conjuror, the half man daredevil Shorty E Dangerous, who attempted and succeeded in walking on his bare hands unscathed on shreds of broken glass, and Ryan Stock who swallowed swords (both straight and curved), put a chainsaw into his mouth and balanced very heavy weights (a bowling ball for one!) using metal hooks through his nose that could have ripped his insides apart. Bryan “the Govna” Graves, the creator, producer and director of The Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow (as well as sideshow stuntman himself) served as the dark and sinister host.
Up next, from Montreal, Canada, The Brains, featuring Rene D La Muerte on guitar and vocals, Collin The Dead on double bass and Phil The Beast on drums, gave a strong and solid performance combining a Stray Cats feel with meat and potatoes punk rock. The Brains have been together since the early 2000s and have released seven albums along with one EP. The dynamic three-piece got the amped-up crowd psyched for the headliner: Swedish rockers Avatar, known for falling into various musical genres such as groove metal, melodic death metal, avant-garde metal and progressive metal.
The five-member band has created a backstory and mythology all of their own, with a flamboyant and grandiose stage show that is as unusual as it is unforgettable and surreal, nodding to Alice Copper, among others, for its creative inspiration. Avatar all wear uniforms and paid tribute to the guitar virtuoso of the band that they referred to constantly as “The King” – Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby, who made a grand entrance on the stage, literally rising from the bottom of it upon a makeshift throne.
The lead singer Johannes Eckerstrom even looked like Alice Cooper, wearing black and white face paint and making exaggerated facial expressions that were creepy, menacing, demented and, at many times, comically farcical. Most impressive was the amount of stamina and gusto he exhibited as a singer by showing his range of vocal styles/tricks/effects. The biggest random surprise of the night was when Eckerstrom came out playing a trombone. This act really showed his versatility and stood in stark contrast to the music.
What tended to get lost and overshadowed in a show like this, with all the pomp and circumstance, is what good musicians Avatar really are; there is great diversity and craft in their compositions. Avatar recently released its seventh album, “Avatar Country.” Going back to a time (maybe the 1980s?) when appearances meant as much as the songs themselves, or maybe more, Avatar is a throwback in a sense that they create heightened sense of reality for the listener. Basically, they developed another new reality in which an audience can join in and inhabit for a night — visually as well as aurally. The response to Avatar was immediately enthusiastic as it was fanatical. Hanging on every lyric, power chord and onstage posture, the crowd went wild, screaming and shaking their long hair in unison with the group in almost a rhythmic, trance-induced heavy metal dance at one and simpatico with Avatar.