Review: Scarring Party/Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons/Everthus the Deadbeats 12.12 @ Cactus Club


Photo of Scarring Party from Myspace
Words by DJ Hostettler

I wanted to make some clever joke about the Scarring Party’s chosen lighting as they took the stage at the Cactus Club on Friday, but it was hard to deny its appropriateness. White floodlights pointed upward from below, casting the band as camp counselors telling ghost stories (or in their lighter moments, Conan O’Brien and Mr. T predicting the future). That’s what the Scarring Party does best, though—tell tales of zombies, Heaven & Hell, and the end times, all with a thinly-cloaked snicker that asks “man, can you get a load of us?”

The set leaned primarily on Scarring Party standards (like my favorite, “No More Room”) with the occasional new tune thrown in for good measure, the highlight of the set being banjo player Willy Dintenfass’s scorching solo on a song whose title I couldn’t tell you, because I’ve sworn off buying any of the band’s recorded material until they choose to release it on wax cylinder. Look, I just dig the whole megaphone crooner shtick so much that I want them to really run with it, ok? The reason why they’re the only band in town that can use banjo and accordion effectively without me wanting to punch them is because they actually think about what instruments will properly convey the mood they want to set, not just whether or not they’re “non-traditional” enough. So why not take the aesthetic and go? I fully expect to be able to purchase Scarring Party bowler hats and suspenders by Summer ’09. Make it happen, gang.

The Cactus Club has evolved into the one music venue in town with almost a guaranteed draw for out-of-town bands thanks to the separation between bar and performance room. Patrons know they can head to Cactus for good drinks and good times with cool people, but aren’t required to pay to go in and see the bands. Which, of course, means that eventually most of them pay to go in anyway once they’ve had a few. That’s how they get ya, which is why opening acts Screamin’ Cyn Cyn and the Pons (from Madison) and Indianapolis’ Everthus the Deadbeats were able to ply their trade in front of decent-sized audiences as well.

Screamin’ Cyn Cyn is a glorious trainwreck of gender-bending trash-punk whose top-notch musicianship is cleverly disguised under a hilariously derailed cabaret of spectacle. Vocalist Shane O’Neil channels his inner Divine by donning ridiculous dresses, garishly glittered makeup and crooning lines like “I cook with eggs but pretend that it’s starch/because somehow I recall that you’re vegan.” I could wax poetic about how their lyrics are a fascinating peek into dealing with self-loathing closeted Midwestern homosexuality wrapped in a Gossip Girl “OMG” sort of package (“Cincinnati” in particular seems to tell the tale of a comfortably out but lonely boy who meets the man of his dreams but has to keep quiet because Dream Boy’s still living a lie), but the bottom line is that the songs are hilarious and fun, to say nothing of the band’s jaw-dropping cover of “Rhythm is a Dancer.”

As for Everthus and the Deadbeats…I really didn’t know what to make of them for most of their set. The sort of band that would compose their own soundtrack to The Wicker Man just for kicks, I was digging the hell out of their psychedelic 60s indie-pop, but couldn’t get past the goddamn hippie vibe on stage. Look, a rock club is no place for dudes in silk gowns with frakking crystals around their necks, ok? I’m just saying. I found myself completely unable to reconcile my love of their music with my intense desire to mock their image. But if you really think about it, evoking feelings of confusion in their audience is a point in their favor, so fair play to them.

When they started making references to their original hometown of Muncie, Indiana, everything clicked and I found myself completely won over. Of COURSE! That explains everything! My band used to play Muncie all the time—that town has a cultish streak longer than Shane Cyn Cyn’s list of sexual conquests. The dude who used to book our shows there had fricking acolytes hanging out at his house all the time—hand to God. Only Muncie could produce a band unsettling enough to round out a bill with Milwaukee’s resident end-timers and Madison’s queens of trash. Well played, Indiana.

MP3:‘Everybody Knows,’ Scarring Party (Leonard Cohen cover)

Video for “Organics Mechanics” by Everthus the Deadbeats—written, directed and edited by Travis Abels

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