The mighty Combichrist rolled into Dallas last night with their Everybody Still Hates You tour, featuring former Murderdolls frontman Wednesday 13’s solo band, Night Club, Prison, and Death Valley High. Of course, it was hot as hell. Only Wednesday 13 and Combichrist were lucky enough to play the outdoor venue after the sun had set, but those who played under the unforgiving sun, were rewarded with an enthusiastic and grateful crowd. Seeing so many bands roll through town and getting an embarrassing response from the crowd, it was encouraging to see the audience not just show up, but give a little something back.
Local boys Razorblade Dolls kicked off the night with a short, 20-minute set. People were still trickling in, but that’s never stopped these guys from playing their guts out. Even if it’s just for four or five songs, they always do our ctiy proud. San Francisco, California’s Death Valley High followed with their brand of gothic-post-punk-pop. Nothing groundbreaking to report. They were fine. Florida’s Prison played a pretty solid set. I didn’t care for the sounds that were generated from their instruments and at one point I swear the singer belched, but the crowd was pretty into it. What’s more, I gotta hand it to their dude – he worked his ass off to get the crowd into the show and warm them up for the bands who followed. It’s hard working a crowd who has never heard your music. I think they succeeded.
Night Club is a band I’ve followed for a while, but got the chance to see live for the first time. The two-piece had a lot to compete with – where the other bands had four or more musicians on stage with loud guitars and drums, Night Club has their singer, Emily Kavanaugh, and keyboardist/programmer Mark Brooks. While Brooks is mostly hidden behind his rig, Kavanaugh becomes the focal point. First, their music was plenty loud and their sound-mix was perfect. With songs that musically recall Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails or some of KMFDM’s better work, Kavanaugh’s pop sensibility makes it a perverse take on modern pop. Kavanaugh’s got a great ear for vocal melody and an incredible stage presence. Dancing almost non-stop, nailing her vocals, and interacting with the crowd, she owned the stage. And I’m not sure why I was worried about the crowds response in comparison to the loud metal/industrial bands they were sandwiched between, beause the crowd loved them. I’m not sure if the 40-something dude who was dancing his ass off was a longtime fan or completely won over by their show, but it didn’t matter. He and some many others walked away Night Club fans.
Wednesday 13….where to start? They had lots of fans at the show and those fans had a great time. There is no disputing that. Personally, I thought they were awful. It was the most generic sounding glam metal (if you say horror punk I’ll slap you!) you can imagine paired with a completely juvenile stage act. Sure, the dudes had their faces painted – which is pretty tired in its own right, but Mr. 13, Sir, could your whole schtick be any more lame? You’ve got six different outfits, cosutmes, whatever – and then your lame ass stage props?!? C’mon! Yeah, you’ve got a song with the “F” word, where the hook spell/chants out the letters, but to top it off you’ve got a friggin umbrella with a middle finger painted on it that you use to “interact” with the crowd. I’m done.
I’m hard pressed to think of another band who brings pure energy and mayhem to their shows at the same level of Combichrist. These dudes are ridiculous. Maybe it’s the dual drummer set-up they had this time, with the second drummer playing off of Joe Letz’s madness. Maybe it’s Andy LePlegua’s commanding stage presence and face that shifts from maniacal to a smile at a moments notice. Whatever it is, if your band is playing on the same bill as these dudes, you better bring it. And I’m not talking about some “A-Game” cliche bullshit. You better put your life on the line. Play like it’s the last show you will ever play. The audience will still probably forget who you are after Combichrist’s set, but you never know.
Playing songs across six albums, including 2005s Everybody Hates You through to 2016s This Is Where Death Begins, the band made all the songs sound current regardless of what decade they were recorded. The crowd pogo-ed in unison with the band, creating a melding of audience and band that was both beautiful and grotesque. The band was loud as shit, but the sound was perfect. If you could focus on one musician or sound, everything was wrapped around it perfectly. And if for some reason you got distracted and took your eyes off the band, you would surely witness something hilarious, awesome, or awesomely hilarious in the crowd. There’s just not enough bands who bring so much pure entertainment to their shows. But, we’ve got Combichrist. God willing, they’ll be back sooner rather than later.
– J. Kevin Lynch (words); Corey Smith (photos)
– click to enlarge photos –