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The Carsinogents
March 8, 2003
Sokol Underground

 

In the end, they didn't need the flames.

I guess you could look at this almost as an epilogue to my current feature on the Carsinogents. What would the band do after being forced by Great White to give up the key theatrical element of their live show -- the flame-blowing routine?

At the risk of sounding cliché, the band brought a different kind of fireworks to the Sokol Underground last night (yikes, I can't believe I wrote that). I've seen these guys at least a half-dozen times -- all of the pst shows included the usual fire-breathing hi-jinx. Last night's non-flame show was easily their best all-out performance. And no one seemed to miss the fire.

The set started with the video projector and pre-show music (Remember the day when all bands played about five minutes of music before their set, just to get people in the mood? The preshow music was a signal to finish your conversation, get a beer and get up to the stage. I miss those days). The recorded music was of the mariachi variety -- Mexican trumpets and orchestra -- while on a large sheet draped over a pole with duct tape a video was projected of a bull fight, interspersed with a shot of the band's old flaming-skull tiki.

The flames were replaced with plenty of smoke from a fog machine. There was so much smoke, I turned the guy next to me and asked if it was part of the act… shades of Rhode Island still fresh in my mind. I glanced up sheepishly at the exit signs. In addition to the smoke, the stage was set with red floor lights and side spot lights, as well as a lighted keyboard placard with the band's logo blaring white.

Then on stage came the band. Anyone who's seen the Carsinogents knows that lead singer, Dave Electro, is a natural showman, a true tripped-out troubadour with footwork that would make Elvis blush. When Dave wasn't behind the keyboard, he was in front of the stage swinging his vintage microphone, belting a riff on guitar, doing some sort of weird shuffle that reminded me of gospel minister lost in the jubilation at a revival meeting.

The set list was a blend of old stuff, songs off the new CD and a couple I hadn't heard before. The band's sound indeed has evolved from 'horror-billy' to straight-out hard rock. I don't know what kind of a match they'll be with Cursive, whose songs are angular punk with introspective vocals. What will the emo kids think when they see Electro standing atop his organ while the rest of the band crashes along with knuckle-busting powerchords? Regardless, last night's crowd of around 300 ate it up. I noticed those who were standing in front of or near the speaker stack were pushed to center stage by night's end. It was indeed loud. I felt sorry for anyone stupid enough to not have earplugs. There's nothing tough or cool about tinnitus.

No, the flames weren't missed. As a matter of fact, the boys can now also confidently leave the film projector at home -- in the end it didn't add much to the staging. The lights and smoke and rock and roll moves are enough to entertain. But the real moment of truth came during the encore, when the band rolled out their signature finale that traditionally includes the flame-stunt. Like always, during the last part of the song, Dave seamlessly switched places with drummer Eldon Vampola. But instead of Eldon grabbing a torch and spitting Bacardi all over the place, he strapped on Dave's guitar and punched out guitar riffs while the rest of the band bashed around stage. After Eldon switched back to his drum set, Dave stretched out his arms across the duct-taped sheet, strolled up to the keyboard, climbed atop and stood there playing the song's final chords.

When he climbed down, that was it -- the end of an era for the band and a beginning of a new one. The final word about The Carsinogents: I don't know if they'll ever break out of this one-horse town. Sure, they've got four Texas dates with Cursive including a gig at Emo's in Austin. But the end of the story won't be written until we find out if they ever get a full-blown tour of their own, up either coast or for three or four weeks throughout the Midwest. And then follow-up with a return tour, because everyone knows the first time out is small and, if you've made an impression, the second time is huge. This band -- both in terms of its music and stage show -- would impress any crowd. The only thing holding them back is them.


back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes)   Posted March 9, 2003. Copyright 2003 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


 


 

 

 

 

 
 

No, the flames weren't missed. As a matter of fact, the boys can now also confidently leave the film projector at home -- in the end it didn't add much to the staging.