The Dramatic Rhythms Experience @ Southgate House Revival 08/06/16 (rev)

Somewhere, there’s a place where exotic belly dancers shimmy in hypnotic tempo to the supportive ululations of onlookers, where ribald pirates ask what do you do with a drunken pirate before launching into a heartfelt rendition of the Nine Inch Nails classic “Hurt”, where dancing artists twirl, and circus sideshow performers walk on broken glass, lie down on a bed of nails, and bend steel in their bare hands.

And it happens right here where I live in Greater Cincinnati.

Organizer and Dramatic Rhythms founder, DaShane Starfox Watkins. Photo   © Scott Stolsenberg 2016

Organizer and Dramatic Rhythms founder, DaShane Starfox Watkins. Photo © Scott Stolsenberg 2016

This conglomeration of artists, freaks, dancers, and musicians came together this past Saturday under the banner of The Dramatic Rhythms Experience, a blissed-out and immersive audiovisual encounter cum nouveau cirque happening. The event was organized by Dramatic Rhythms, a world fusion musical arts & belly dance group devised by local drummer, DaShane Starfox Watkins. I’ve been to a few Dramatic Rhythm events before and have always enjoyed it but this particular event blew me away.

Saturday night’s event at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY, had a Viking theme and featured music by Noyse Merchants and local favorites Band of Pirates, as well as dancing from Troupe Roja and circus antics from Blue Moon Circus, as well as a costume contest, henna tattoo artists, and vendors galore  before culminating into the event proper, a performance by Starfox. The event was emceed by BoP’s own Loren the Black.

Blue Moon Circus and the Ladder of Machetes. Ouch! Photo   © Scott Stolsenberg 2016

Blue Moon Circus and the Ladder of Machetes. Ouch! Photo © Scott Stolsenberg 2016

The evening started off with a performance by the manic Blue Moon Circus, a two-person team whose motto was “We bring the danger, then we bring the safety.”  Charged with warming up the crowd and easing everyone into a night of weirdness, BMC featured a strong woman bending frying pans and rebar, unicycle hoop jumping, climbing a ladder of machetes barefooted, and having large cinder blocks smashed upon a person lying down on a bed of nail, not to mention a bizarre game of Ring Around The Wiener (I’ll let you imagine what that means).

Noyse Merchants get Medieval on yo ass.

Noyse Merchants. Gettin’ Medieval on yo ass.

Next up were the Noyse Merchants, a band that was new to me featuring guitars, lutes, and a hurdy frikkin’ gurdy! Comprised this evening of Michael Zaret, Larry Brown, Jackie stevens, Tina Gutierrez and Rob Dorsey, Noyse Merchants performed the Classics, and by that, I mean that they performed songs from Baroque, English Renaissance, and the Middle Ages. Describing their set as “music to plunder a village by,” this exceedingly entertaining ensemble produced some very beautiful and mellow music.

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Band of Pirates sing….

Following a brief intermission, local favorites Band of Pirates took the stage. This six-piece set of rowdy ramblers are always a crowd pleaser and never fail to entertain. Opening with the traditional “Blow The Man Down”, the Pirates played the hits of the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. weaving from The Muppet’s Treasure Island hit, “Shiver My Timbers”, Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, all the way to “Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life)”. No doubt about it, every time this band performs, they manage to bring the house down with their polished sound and banter. Having seen BoP from the very beginning, the evolution of their sound from the original four-piece of Rob Dorsey, Loren “the Black” Muzzy, Dave Francy, and Larry “Captain Jack” Sparrow into a multi-instrument six-person band — with Julie Langenderfer on the accordion, Starfox Watkins on drums, and Sparrow switching guitar to the cello and violin — has made BoP more than just a band that does pirate songs.

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…and Band of Pirates play.

Interspersed between acts, dancers took to the floor to prerecorded music which helped to maintain the positive energy amongst the audience.

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A dancer from Troupe Roja.

One note on the venue: The Southgate House Revival venue is located at the old Grace Methodist Episcopal church in Newport. Around about 2012, it was renovated and dubbed with its current moniker, a continuation of the original Southgate House (now called the Thompson House). The new locale has three separate areas, which means three different events can be pulled off in one night. As such, the Dramatic Rhythms Experience took place in the largest room, dubbed the Sanctuary and located in what was originally the main temple of the church. Visually, it’s stunning with much of the old stained glass serving as a backdrop to the stage as well as the upper level above the stage (a kind of green room for performers) and the bar in the back is nestled below the large organ pipes. Size-wise, it is the largest of the three rooms and aligned cosmically correct with the event that was happening that evening. The stage lights bathed the performers in green and purplish blue lights, giving the entire event a very mellow and beautiful ambience.

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Dramatic Rhythms performs.

After another brief break, it was time for the titular group to hit the stage. A typical Dramatic Rhythms performance, if such a thing can be described as typical, can be comprised of a continuous hour-long piece of music, the foundation of which is prerecorded, accompanied by Starfox Watkins and his collaborators, who play a variety of instruments live and with these prerecorded tracks. These include guitars, drums, singing bowls, cello, mandolin, didgeridoo, chanting, assorted chimes, bells, and other instruments, depending upon the track. On this night, Starfox Watkins was joined by Mr. Dorsey, a vocalist, as well Watkins’ parents for an even extra special performance. Serving as the music for multiple performances by Troupe Roja and other dancers — which included an amazing and, at one point, heart-stopping aerial dancer — the experience created by all of these incredibly talented people was the coup de grace for what was a terrific event.

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The moment before a cardiac event.

All in all, The Dramatic Rhythms Experience produced a spellbinding evening of music, dance, and weirdness.

 

 

 

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This article has been updated to add two photos used with permission from local photographer Scott Stolsenberg.

More photos from the Dramatic Rhythms Experience can be seen by visiting his Facebook page. Thanks again, Scott, for the use of these photos. — Brian

We’re All A Little Bit Twisted

WeAreTwistedFuckingSisterLast week, I took a chance on a little known US/German 2014 documentary on Netflix called We Are Twisted Fucking Sister. In case you aren’t aware, it’s a movie about the heavy metal band Dokken Twisted Sister and charts the history of the band’s creation, rabid Sick Mother Fuckers fanbase, and hardcore work habits that dominated the New York-area clubs in the 70’s and early 80’s.

Clocking in at two hours and sixteen minutes, the film is a non-glamorous, nuts-&-bolts look at the rock’n’roll lifestyle.Produced by Andrew Horn, who won awards ten years earlier with his documentary on avant garde singer/performer/alien Klaus Nomi, WATFS lays it all bare as to how these guys became the best rock’n’roll of their time.. From the fan drinking contests held on stage to lead singer Dee Snider berating *anyone* looking like they weren’t having a good time to their utter hate for despicable disco music, the development of their satirical gender-bending style, the brutal work ethic of Snider and band creator Jay Jay French et al… if you weren’t a TS fan before this movie, you might just find yourself humming “I’ll Never Grow Up Now” by the end of it.

Members of the classic lineup such as Mark “The Animal” Mendoza, Eddie Ojeda, and the late AJ Pero (who died last year) are in it, as well as earlier members.

Twister_Sister_-_Stay_HungryIt ends just at the release of the album that would shoot them to MTV-worthiness, 1984’s Stay Hungry. That album spawned several rebellious videos such as their classic anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock“, classic music montages that featured TS fighting back at conformity and unchecked authority personified by Mark Metcalf’s über-tyrannical recreation of Douglas Niedermayer’s from the movie Animal House. These videos sliced a vein to bleed a non-compromising and antiauthoritarian cavalcade in a way that not even Mötley Crüe could touch with their “worthless and weak” video for “Smokin’ In The Boys Room” remake released the next year. I mean,yeah, Michael Berryman was creepy as hell in that video but he wasn’t even in the same galaxy with the Blind With Power Rage embodied by the man who would later play the Master in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

Stay Hungry. That album. That album cover. What my parents must’ve thought finding that sitting on top of the stereo back home in Cheviot, Ohio. But it still holds up, as does most of the TS catalog. Sure, KISS might’ve been the more popular band but you cannot convince me that they were anywhere near the best compared to TS. While Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley might know a thing about marketing, they’re overrated pompous buffoons compared to French and Snider. TS never went disco (Dynasty) or got rid of their own image (lick that up) to produce weaker music (anything after Love Gun). Did Gene Simmons stand up to the PMRC? Hellzno. But Dee did.

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So let’s just say that I’m all in for this documentary. Sure, two-plus hours might seem a long time to cover a band’s trajectory up to their biggest album, and that will surely disappoint some, but the joy in this movie is discovering that the band we know from those music videos actually were pretty fucking awesome beforehand. You discover that they were a well-kept secret before MTV airplay. And you’ll feel really jealous about it.

So enjoy it. I give it a definite thumbs up. Stay twisted, you sick motherfuckers.

Termination Station Grey

There are days when the ideas fly around in my head. Then, there are times when I feel like I’ve deadened the synapses from TV bingeing that conjuring les mots for a healthy hearty textual diagram is like rewiring a transistor radio with soggy ramen. When that sort of thing happens, it’s helpful to just unplug the noisy screens and reconnect myself back to The Words On The Paper.

Locked away in a room is an infinite number of typewriters and a chimpanzee. Given enough time, it might figure out how to type banana. Given even more time, it might figure out how to self-publish or argue competently for an agent.

This looks like a job for Acid Rock!  To the Bevis Frond, Robin.

Speaking of music that can be classified as weirdly, I saw a performance the other night by a UK Steampunk band called The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.  Never mind the goggles, the Men rocked a pretty loud and hard set and my ears are still ringing. So if you happen to find them in your town, hide the porridge and give them your bucks because they’re pretty fucking fantastic. Also on the bill was Frenchy and The Punk so what all that means is that music was well served that night.

The new job has continued and it’s still rather strenuous. The other day, a lady confessed to me that she had just had a C-section and shouldn’t be out walking, which she had done to get to the store with her guy (who was buying some pleasant malt liquor). It’s the people you meet sometimes that reminds one that we lived in a very fucked up world.

Sleep well, my pretties.