The first thing I see when I walk in is a girl in a rockabilly dress weaving through the winged eyeliner and chains that make up the battle armor of the crowd. She walks towards the door parting the deep blackness with grey polka dots. She strides with confidence, well put together and poised amid the black and chrome.
I arm myself with a vodka cranberry–my personal defense against sobriety–and see Frank. He has not forgotten me in the hours since his set and exclaims that this will be amazing. He hugs me, and smiles brightly seeming like a beacon in the darkness of the club.
I’ve missed the first three bands–trading them for bondage, an album pre-order, and a full charge on my phone. The crowd has not shared my enthusiasm for my hotel room and mills about in groups, forming eddies in the flow of humanity. I’ve found a dreadlocked amazon who takes it upon herself to welcome me to her city, her club, her scene. Her name is Dorothy– I imagine a Wizard in Oz that would hold her as the main character and I think that it must be Convergence. The yellow brick road is the tattered streets of downtown Dallas and the wizards castle is every club we walk into. The wizard is Joe Virus assisted by Missy Morgan, orchestrating our Oz quietly from behind the red curtains in front of me with Ciaran and Bella projected in front a the dark face of the wizard. The club feels like it’s built on a jaunty angle, with hiding places and chairs scattered around the perimeter. I find a shelf to hold my drink and myself with an excellent view.
Iris takes the stage and someone screams, sharing the enthusiasm Frank professed earlier for the two man band.
“I’ve lost it all,” Regan Jones wails, enveloped in smoke. His voice rings out like crystal over the drone of the bass. This is their first show in a long time and the crowd howls their affection. These are hometown boys and the crowd is hungry for them. They play to this, moving around the stage and bantering. I feel as if they know every face in the crowd and welcome us to this dark place.
Andrew Sega seems like he may explode from an energy he can hardly contain, channeling it through his hands to his guitar.
Frank passes me again from my post towards the back and in pantomime asks if I am enjoying myself–I shape a heart on my chest in answer. The music presses into my bones through my skin, mingles with the vodka that I’ve fed it, and I feel at peace.
Someone I don’t recognize but will see again over the nights passes out shots with roses clenched between his teeth on stage–it’s Andrew’s birthday and this is how they (how we) celebrate. He seems a little embarrassed and shy as he accepts the drink. If the room were lit to a normal level, we may have seen him blush.
Frank takes the stage with Iris and the crowd erupts, demanding ever more as the two singers play back and forth with vocals. They weave their voices and bodies around the stage, trading microphones, verses, lines, laughter. Frank is a force of nature as he advances on the microphone stand, gripping it and releasing as if his voice was activated by the fists he made. His voice pairs perfectly with Regan’s and they recreate the vocals with beautiful precision.
Afterwards, Frank finds me again and holds out his arms. I hug him tightly and laugh. These are some of the moments that I live for–a true and genuine outpouring of performance art and gratitude from each of us in our measure. Frank leaves to delight another fan and I turn back to the bar.
Drink firmly in hand, I scan the crowd. There are several touch points for me in this weekend; acts that I’ve determined I will not miss. This is harder than you’d imagine as the night is split between two venues and my hotel is a mile away. Upcoming is one of my touch points. I take the opportunity to finish my drink as the curtain pulls away from the center of the stage.
“Spontaneous compositions and re-imaginings,” Curse Mackey promises and while the phrase may sound pretentious out of context, his eager face gives the promise a weight that other men’s words lack.
He opens his set with a variation on Something Wicked. I find myself lost in the crashing, rolling noise and pulled towards the stage. I install myself to the left and could almost touch Curse if I stood on my tip toes. I feel the ebb and flow pulling at me and pushing me as if the sound were a physical thing that buffeted me on all sides. There is an unsettling undercurrent of anxiety–the last time I heard this overpowering, suffocating sound assault was just before some of the worst times of my life. The sensation carries me away and I smell harsh antiseptic mingled with the smoke machine and vapes. There’s a moment where I cannot breathe and think I may die under the relentless pounding the rolls off the stage.
It passes with a change in song and I take a deep breath and recenter myself.
I can pick out the refrain from Free Poison scratching free amidst the smoke and sound. Onstage, Curse stands on a tarp that seems to have shoe black on it and behind a different rig than last time I saw him and he seems almost diminutive save for the sheer power that he wields. I imagine as I watch that he could create these sounds from force of will alone standing before us and erupting noise and light from the very center of himself. You will see nothing like the instinctual rebirth of sound that Curse Mackey creates. He is painting, each sound stroke changing the landscape and molding it to better suit his needs.
TKK material moves the crowd to lift hands, drinks, phones, voices. He is all showmanship though you are left with the feeling that he creates for himself out of whatever drives him not out of a need for your affection. I am drawn forward in time for spider sex. We all scream the lyrics–or maybe it’s just me. It’s all I can hear or feel as it pounds into me and I scream reflecting the words back. “Maybe you should have drove instead.” He goes to the ground and encases himself in the tarp that he’s been standing on, moaning at us and pushing the lyrics into everyone’s ears. When it stops, it is almost as if a support has been taken away and I feel as if I’m falling into the silence.
Curse remembers my name and hugs me in a way that feels as genuine and warm as the first cup of hot cocoa in winter. This second authentic connection of the night makes me cry when he turns away and I flee for more vodka.
As I wait, the crowd thickens suddenly, a sea of humanity and spikes. They spill in around me and surround me. I am still wrapped up in emotions I refuse to quantify and am swept along catching myself on a table like a leaf in a rushing river would get caught on a rock.
Assemblage 23 finds an eager crowd, hands lifted towards the stage. Tom Sheer calls to them and thrives on the screams he receives in reply. The music rolls through the crowd as he sings “I am damaged, but I somehow manage” and I connect deeply to the lyrics.
As we’re introduced, Rona Rougeheart says I’m pretty and I melt. I tell Curse I may like her more than him and he admits it happens a lot. I’m filled with regret that I’ll miss the Memorial Day show with Curse, SINE, and 3TEETH in Austin. I resolve yet again to find myself installed here, in arm’s reach of the things I desire.
Back on stage, the drummer looks like this is his life’s work–to be in this place, slamming out these beats. He is filled with the joy of a person who is doing what they truly love as the smoke machine and lights play around him. He throws his head back and slams forward.
They play Barren, and Tom tells us it wasn’t a song they on the last tour. They are playing it for the first time in the US here and now. This is new, this is for us. The crowd responds to this gift, rocking in time. I’m never sure why they ask the crowd to clap along–there are maybe four drummers scattered who can keep a bear for more than 10 seconds. We try valiantly and fail, falling back to a rhythmic sea of swaying in short order.
This is the largest crowd the club has hosted all night and I watch them sing along, reach out for the band, and participate. It is a melding of crowd and performer to create a symbiotic unit that feeds off each member in turn. Assemblage 23 erupts again and again, filling the stage and the room with their presence and sound for the willing humans in front of them.
The set ends and I break my one drink no per band rule with an extra vodka cranberry and a shot of Fireball. This is a terrible idea.
Gentle music spills out from behind the curtain, piano and softness before an eruption of sound that startles me. Kommunity FK seems to materialize on stage in a sharp slash of sound and clever hats. Behind the band, a projector describes and displays images.
Despite the beginning, they are not subtle, loud crashing sound that feels too large for the space we inhabit. There is more than enough in their four members to fill the curtain club and, I think, all of Dallas. Her voice is a easy connection to the crowd. They react, swaying, pulsing with her as she howls lyrics.
Curse and Rona find me and I follow them to Razorblade Dolls at the Reno Chop Shop. He says I’ll love them and he’s right. They are sound and motion making the mass of humanity in front of them boil and violently react. The lead is painted in grays with white out contacts. Every time he opens his mouth, his tongue seems too red and his teeth too white set in the grayed flesh. It’s that strange spot where deeply disturbing overflows into desirable. His expressive hands and arms are props to flail at and direct the crowd gripping fistfuls of air.
The room itself is behind a standard-looking pool dive bar, peppered with polos and the occasional Zeppelin shirt. It feels smaller than I’m sure it is, with humanity wedged in corners and spilling over chairs. Everyone is as restless as the stage, driven by the sounds and the energy rolling out of the speakers. It’s too loud and perfect.
Each of the three guitarists plays like he is driven by something unholy, fast fingers fleeing over the strings again and again. They reach a fever pitch and I think they may spontaneously explode. This is a metal band–they’re described online as ‘electro-horror metal’. They have the deeply satisfying circular sound of a pure metal band hung with the gray and rust red trappings of horror. A screaming, rocking sound that the crowd is desperate for, reaching hands and throwing elbows to get closer.
“This one is sexual,” the lead either warns or reminds. “Fuck you!” he then screams, thrusting his hips at the crowd. In the front row a girl leans too close and he winks at her gyrating in her direction. She is beyond thrilled to become a prop in his stage show and yells out for him.
Tomorrow, I’ll meet Nick (one of the members) and he’ll casually tell me the show was tame describing a Halloween show with blood and pigs. He’ll shrug and explain that if you do that sort of thing almost every time, people will be disappointed and tell everyone it wasn’t a good show the one time you don’t. I nod sagely in agreement, reflecting later that we’ve just the pros and cons of pig guts as two people might discuss picking turkey over ham for their sandwiches.
The entire experience leads me to institute a new policy: If someone says “come with me, I think you’ll like this”, I follow them. This does not apply to Fireball shots.
I’m exhausted after their set, worn down by the music beating against me and ferocious excitement. The club is as close to quiet as it will be for hours, giving me a moment to reflect and feel a pang of regret for missing the first songs of their set.
Cyanide Regime is up next. Two men from the crowd rush to the front like a tidal wave, tripping over themselves to set up in the prime positions before the stage. They flail and kick as they dance possessed by the music. It becomes infectious and spreads through the group pressed to the front.
Two men battle behind the lead signer, vying for prominence and noise. They thunder and wrestle, forming music from their chaos. The crowd–especially the frantic front row–responds with enthusiasm jumping and pushing. They move as individuals expressing the beats they feel and refusing to line up with the others. Every scream prompts a raised first or skyward leap that the vocalist on stage takes in behind mirrored shades. He is causal–a rock the pulsating beat and dance moves around, unfazed by the frantic scene that surrounds him.
I should stay longer, but am finding myself slumping farther down the wall as I watch and know I should sleep. My hotel bed calls me and I answer, pushing through heavy doors and the heavier stares of Dallas’s regular nightlife.