The London fog rolled lazily across the damp, pot-holed, Holloway Road. Unperturbed as it was punctured and holed by the frantic stream of fast food moped deliveries. It reformed and flowed on, licking at the feet of those eagerly assembled by the doors of The Garage, patiently waiting for a night of pure EVIL.
Was it In The Whale, Into The Whale? No, it was American hard rock two-piece, Inthewhale that opened the evening. With Nathaniel Valdez on guitar and lead vocals, and Eric Riley on drums, what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in volume and pure energy.
Dressed everso unfashionably in white, somewhere between John’s Children and Droogs, with both passion and intelligence they combined genres. Nath’s guitar chugged relentlessly to complement the strength of the lyrical content, while Eric added the occasional death metal guttural backing vocals. Rather than fall into the rock cliché of trying to use every drum and cymbal wherever possible, Eric was unafraid to focus predominantly on the snare at times, giving a fresh take to metal drumming and infusing the songs with danceability despite their hard edge.
A particular highlight was Drug Dealer, which disrupted mainstream narratives over drug use with a powerful assault on the harm caused by pharmaceutical corporations. Eric dedicated Smoke Break to those who had taken their own lives and those suffering with mental health problems, encouraging the audience to contact vulnerable friends. This powerful grunge number articulated the struggles of someone in the depths of a mental health crisis.
Inthewhale were due to return to the States the day after the gig, but hopefully they will return to these shores soon with their own headline shows.
Metal parody band, Evil Scarecrow take Spinal Tap to a whole new level. With the audience participation of Rocky Horror meets Christmas pantomime, to the Saturday night TV-style merchandise giveaways albeit on increasingly obsolete formats (‘What does s/he get?’ asked Dr Rabid Hell with all the bounciness of Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart on Crackerjack! (Google it if you’re not old enough to remember), and the crowd shouted back, ‘A free DVD!’), this was a night for leaving any serious rock pretensions at the door. From the dress style of the crowd, it was clear that this was a room of people who really liked metal rather than a random bunch of Circus of Horrors fans. Of course, the best parody bands not only have a silly sense of humour and a genuine fan-based understanding of the genre, but also real musicianship, and Evil Scarecrow are the real deal.
The band have had a few line-up changes over the years but now seem settled with the irrepressible Dr Rabid Hell on vocals and guitar, Kraven Morrdeth on bass guitar looking as if he’s stepped out of a Viking sacrificial ritual, Count Gravediga on guitar rocking the Herman Munster / sociopathic serial killer look, dreadlocked cyber angel of death Alice Babylon on keyboards and the bloodied Satanic beast Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist on drums.
Various members of the wider tour team, presumably friends and partners, as well as the support band and the tour manager, were roped into dressing up as ghosts, extra-terrestrials, robots and, of course, Crabulon herself. Even the odd unicorn turned up for the ride.
What other band could get the entire crowd to do a robot dance that would make Peter Crouch weep in a corner, or have everyone making crab claws with their hands and scuttling from side to side in unison while chanting, ‘Crabulon, Crabulon’, or get us all spinning round to the point of nausea to Hurricanado? After the isolation of lockdowns and social distancing, the audience smiled at the person next to them, said, ‘after you’ at the bar, and were just generally nice to each other, and the outside world of pandemics, falling living standards and catastrophic climate change was forgotten for a few precious hours. In the current situation, being wiped out by giant crabs or artificially inseminated robots isn’t that much of a stretch anyway, so we might as well throw our heads back and laugh like Dr Strangelove as we sail into the abyss rather than the sunset………
Keep calm and Crabulon.
EVIL SCARECROW + INTHEWHALE PLAYED THE GARAGE, HIGHBURY, LONDON, SATURDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2021
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