By Matt “Rabit” Martinez, Red Hare Images
Rock n’ Roll is not one to rest even as the year 2018 starts. Concerts begin as soon as the new year rings in, which is why I find it strange that it took me so long to start attending shows. Ultimately, I think it just came down to waiting for the right show. That being said, one of the first shows of the year for me is Avatar. Headlining their own tour for the first time and coming through Los Angeles on the Avatar Country tour, they bring with them the psychobilly rock band known as The Brains and the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue. This night, the Regent Theatre was about to take a trip to another world full of freak shows, talented musical acts, reigned over by The King. Welcome to Avatar Country.
In Avatar Country, you are bound to come across the strange and macabre. So of course, you would expect to encounter a freak show. The Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue is helmed by Bryce “The Govna” Graves with his procession of carnival acts featuring death-defying stunts, mind-over-matter feats of strength, and an anti-conjuror magician. One of the biggest highlights of the show is the half-man Short E. Dangerously, who seems to be missing the entire bottom half of his body. What he lacks in legs, Short E. certainly makes up for it in arm strength as he can do hand stand push-ups and one-armed balancing acts. Not to mention the fact that his hands have become so tough from walking on them, that he was able to walk across and jump onto a pile of broken glass without so much as a scratch. Short E. also has the accomplishment of being featured in 2017 Ripley’s Believe It Or Not book!
With a freak show like this, you must have a utility act which is someone who can facilitate multiple roles in the show depending on what that night’s performance requires. This role is filled by the multi-talented Ryan Stock. With his first performance, Stock assisted by Amberlynn Walker, hung a grappling-type device to his nose and eyelids and hung 3 cowbells and a bowling ball from his face! Stock also included a game of Five Finger Fillet that got faster and faster, an act that consisted of balancing a running chainsaw in his mouth, and a sword swallowing act where he turned the direction the sword was facing while in his throat. The performance was a very astounding and shocking experience as he returned to the stage each time with a new act. All you could hear was the collective cry of disgust and intrigue from the crowd.
Rounding off this cavalcade of misfits is the anti-conjuror magician Dan Sperry. I have been fortunate enough to have seen Sperry perform live once before on Penn & Tellers: Fool Us and took quite the sadistic pleasure in hearing the audience gasp and groan in shock throughout this performance. Sperry is one who takes pleasure in creeping out the audience by mutilating his body. For instance, Sperry opens his act by swallowing a Lifesaver mint whole and then uses floss to rip it out of his throat. Thereafter, he swallows 6 razor blades and some floss and while they disappear in his throat, he manages to string them all, pulling them out like strung together Christmas lights. For his grand finale, Sperry finishes off his routine with a sinful spin on the classic dove act. The Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue was the best way to welcome the crowd to Avatar Country.
Full Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue slideshow below:
Following the road through this strange and wonderful land, we came across the first musical act starring The Brains, a three-piece psychobilly band from Montreal, Canada. In regards to psychobilly music, it is played with instruments that you would find in a 1950s rock band but played fast and with a bigger groove. The band is fronted by Rene D La Muerte, who is grooving with a stylish Gretsch Hollowbody guitar and rocking a greaser look. Rocking a classic instrument that one does not normally find in bands of today, Colin the Dead was fingering away at a Double Bass. Managing to keep the tempo while nursing a broken foot is the very talented Phil The Beast on drums. Bringing a dance vibe to the Regent, The Brains played songs from their catalogue like “We’ll Rise” and “The Monster Within.” Essentially, The Brains brought out the “greaser” in anyone who just wanted to rock out with every audience member traveling through Avatar Country that night.
Full The Brains slideshow below:
The journey has been chaotic and maybe a little bit frightening at times but we had made it to our destination; the Kingdom of Avatar Country lay before us. Avatar opened their set by having a huge drapery with the oath of the land proclaiming worship to The King, while minstrels were singing over the speakers, “Glory to Our King.” As the drapery dropped you could see the King, Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby sitting on his thrown in crown and cloak with guitar in hand. The King ripped the opening to “Legend of the King,” flanked by guitarist Tim Öhrström, bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer John Alfredsson who was seated in front of the King marching the band into action. Last onto the stage walked singer Johannes Eckerström, portraying what I would call the King’s Advisor, singing the proclamations of the King and carrying out his will throughout the show.
Now, this particular King does not see himself completely above everyone else as he was eager to join the rest of the band on the stage below his perch. The King even traded off lead and rhythm guitar work with fellow guitarist Öhrström, who would often take center stage for some of his solos. Eckerström is a perfect frontman as he knows how to get the crowd riled up and motivated by giving a shout-out to one of his idles Judas Priest and going into the song “Smells Like a Freak Show” with a nod to Rob Halford. Avatar put on nearly a two hour performance of love for the music and story they were creating. As the end of the show neared, Eckerström made an announcement that we have all been welcomed to the Avatar family as two giant bubble machines filled the Regent with bubbles going into “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country.” Typically, not something I would have expected from a Metal band but the fans went wild!
Full Avatar slideshow below:
I was supposed to see Avatar last year but due to some heavy traffic, I missed their set as they were the opening act. I could not wait for this show to finally come around and the whole thing exceeded my expectations. Avatar is on their way to becoming one of the biggest names in metal and it is very much well-deserved. The Brains got the people moving and ready for what was to come and the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue set the mood for how this trip was going to go. Sadly, the night was over and we had to leave this great land. However, I can guarantee every member of this trip will immediately book a ticket the next time they get a chance to travel to Avatar Country.