Chalk it up to the perversity of human nature if you want. But there is no denying that - like moths to a bug zapper - we are often most entranced by those things that should repulse us.
Road kill, open-casket funerals, that childish urge to pull back our Band-Aids and show off our gooey wounds.
And, of course, car accidents.
No matter how wrong it feels, we crane our necks until it hurts to get a good look at the mayhem playing out at roadside.
We cringe. We feel guilty. And we keep on looking.
Enter the time-honored circus freak show - a little slice of Americana that allows us to stare life’s chaos full-on in the face without that nasty side effect called guilt.
“I think we’re all attracted to the element of taboo,” says William Darke, ring master extraordinaire of The William Darke Freak Show Spectacular, rolling into Outback Jack’s Tuesday.
A long-time performer whose repertoire includes fire-eating and magic, Darke plays host to a bizarre cast of characters who - among other things - walk on glass, gouge nails through their tongues, juggle running chain saws and lift cinder blocks with pierced body parts.
(Cringing as you mark your calendar?)
“If you see somebody that looks strange, most people - when they’re young - just stare at the person. But whether it’s your mother or father, somebody’s telling you ‘don’t look,”’ Darke says. “I’m going to tell everybody to look. I’m going to give you an eyeful - so much it’s going to leak out your ears.”
Darke, who hails from Chicago, has toured with similar groups. But the William Darke Freak Show tour is his first with this lineup.
In this neck of the woods, Darke’s crew will inevitably draw comparisons with Seattle’s Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, a freaky troupe which truly put the gag reflex to the test. (One performer uses piercings in his privates to lift heavy objects.)
Mark “The Knife” Faje, who on Tuesday will juggle items that go well beyond his nickname, previously performed with the Jim Rose show.
“We do some pretty sickly things that are borderline tasteful,” Darke admits. But, he says his show features “skilled performers” versus mere “gross-out performers.”
Balancing acts, unicycle riding and even a yo-yo performance are slated. And Darke says practice and technique are the real keys to walking on swords and glass.
But if you come to the show, brace yourself. About 30 audience members are usually drawn into the fray, Darke says, explaining that, in one bit, he plans to run enough electrical current through audience members to light up a light bulb.
(Thanks, but I think I’ll sit that one out.)
The freaks will be followed by 13 mg. This Chicago-spawned industrial band rips with the energy of a good car wreck - one that finds Nine Inch Nails running headlong into Depeche Mode.
If 13 mg.’s live performance is anything like their new album - Eternacate - these guys have a surprisingly listenable sound that wraps electronic-steeped metal grinds with some dark and sultry melodies.
Tuesday night’s freak fest will cost $5 in advance, $7 at the door. Show starts at 9 p.m.
No metal in my Mouth
The members of Cotton Mouth Inc. do not want to be called a heavy metal band.
I want to respect their request. I really do.
But it’s just plain undeniable that their new album, 4:20, is highly metal-influenced. And since the band will be celebrating 4:20 with a CD release show this evening at Outback Jack’s, we’d better get to the bottom of the metal issue right now.
So here it is: Cotton Mouth’s latest effort - a 13-song album named after not only a time of day but drug slang - dips nicely into the waters of several styles - goth, punk and a bit of funk.
The circus-like freneticism of “Chaotosphere” is a good Mr. Bungle-ish effort. The vampire piece, “Demoness,” is appealing, melody-bitten goth akin to Type O Negative. And “Dream Away” is a full-on power love ballad.
Still, the album remains firmly rooted in heavy metal. Check the ripping furry of “DemonoChrist” and “God of My World.” Jason McKinney’s angst-ridden vocals power over grinding guitars in “Submission and Restraint.”
With all that said, the members of Cotton Mouth have something important to point out: “Those songs are all about two years old,” says keyboard/vocalist McKinney, who also sings for Distorted Silence. “We wrote a whole bunch of new songs and we’re definitely going a different direction.”
Nowadays, the band is moving toward hardcore punk “with elements of hip hop.” he says. And bassist Bill-wad de La Agro (not his real name) hands off his instrument to McKinney and takes the lead on vocals in about half the set.
If a band can grow and explore new directions, more power to it. But don’t deny your roots guys. As you sing in “Crib,” “The present is only a reflection of the past.”
Check out Cotton Mouth’s new and old sound tonight at Outback Jack’s. Felix Schmidt and Sleep Capsule open. Cover is $4. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.
Quitters Inc. don’t live up to their name.
Despite parting ways with two of their original band members and spending months trying to find a suitable bassist, these pop-punkers have done anything but quit.
Looks like tenacity paid off.
The Spokane band will introduce its new lineup - and newish sound - Saturday at a punk extravaganza at Ichabod’s North. Elmer, Portland’s country-punks, will headline and The Fumes will play the middle slot.
Quitters Inc. formed last May out of the ashes of Velvet Pelvis, the Crudlers, Overwhelming Colorfast and Nice World. They were quickly snapped up for a spot in the North by Northwest music conference in Portland. But after that gig, they parted ways (amiably, I’m told) with their drummer and bassist.
The remaining band members were friends with Rick Warriner, of Big Comb, which had recently broken up. But “I hadn’t thought to ask him (to play bass) right off because Rick’s a guitar player,” says singer/ songwriter Sancyre Hruby, (who holds the title for my favorite unusual name.)
But, during a fit of frustration over the lack of a bass player, she decided to call. “It was just on a whim to see what he’d say and he was totally down with it. He was thinking he wanted to play bass any way. It was like I read his mind.”
Hruby says Quitters combines “a love for what is pop and a love for punk.” But with Rick now joining the group - just six weeks ago - “we’re going to get down more to harder rock and roll, a little faster tempo and heavier riffs.”
Two Quitters Inc. songs should eventually be available on separate compilation albums.
A “School is In” cover will appear on a Valley Girl movie compilation. “Detox Van” will appear on Songs About Drinking II: Liverache, along with an Elmer tune.
Saturday’s show starts at 9:30. Cover is $4.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NIGHTWATCH PICKS Best bets at area clubs: SUNDAY: Sweet Water at Outback Jack’s with The Cat Ion and Delbert. TUESDAY: Folk musician Deb Pasternak at The Wine Cellar in Coeur d’Alene.