The alternative metal scene roared back to life in Long Island last night, as the masked men of Mushroomhead brought their dramatic stage show and melodramatic metal to the Emporium joined by the brilliantly psychotic One Eyed Doll and the energetic XFactor1.
Suffolk County metalheads came out early for Tuesday night’s bill, and while the Emporium’s 18-and-over policy prevented a sell-out crowd, what fans lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. The Emporium might primarily be a dance club these days, but rock n’ roll portraits that plastered the walls of the low-lit venue saw Ozzy, Slash, Hendrix and other icons looking down as early arrivals bounced around the floor to XFactor1’s heavy-as-balls cover of Paint It Black.
But it was One Eyed Doll that really grabbed the crowd’s attention with singer/guitarist Kimberly Freeman’s maniacal performance. Like last summer’s performance with Otep and the Butcher Babies (read about it here), Kimberly ricocheted between singsong, doll-faced darling and death metal demon with the wide-eyed earnestness of an escaped mental patient.
Supported by her drummer, Kimberly offered a squeaky-clean invite for the crowd to “be her friend,” only to roar into howling metal passages with each stomp of her distortion pedal. The duo had time to play just a handful of songs, but each tune was accompanied by playful costume changes and well-timed one-liners that engaged the crowd and had them singing along to hysterical choruses like “take away the voices and I’m just like you!”
Kimberly flung herself over the barricade for her final song, thrashing around on the floor of the pit (see photos on the left sidebar), then tossed her guitar right into the hands of this Examiner with a breathless “hold this!” before diving headfirst back onto stage and barreled into the drum kit for a climactic finish. Fans watched the set conclude with equal looks of shock and amusement on their faces, and loudly agreed that One Eyed Doll is the most inventive and unique metal band to come along in a long time.
But the vast majority of the crowd was there to worship at the feet of the one and only Mushroomhead, which now features original vocalist J-Mann joining Jeffery Nothing and Waylon for their 20th anniversary tour, and everyone was in top form. J-Mann even rapped along to a track playing Eminem’s Without Me as the band prepared to hit the stage.
Dramatic water drums highlighted opening songs like Kill Tomorrow and old school favorites Bwomp and Never Let It Go, J-Mann effortlessly sizzling his way through the songs’ rapidfire raps. The band’s assorted musicians prowled the stage with instruments and microphones in hand, staring down the crowd and egging them on as hardcore fans moshed on the open floor.
Mushroomhead brings an intensity with them that rivals the music itself, and everyone in the room was transported to an otherworldly place for slower, ethereal songs like Save Us and Simple Survival, fans singing along as the band harmonized their voices together for the melodic passages and then roared through the breakdowns.
Playing for over an hour, the nine-man group blasted through every major hit before ending with their climactic cover of Pink Floyd’s Empty Spaces, always a highlight of a Mushroomhead show, followed by the punch-to-the-throat Born Of Desire which saw kids bashing around the mosh pit floor one last time to end the night.
While most platinum-selling bands try to join marquee tours to get into arenas instead of hitting the clubs, last night’s acts not only stand out for their non-commercial (read: original) music, but also for their direct communications with their fans. Each band hosted a meet & greet by their merch booths after their sets, taking time to talk to fans and pose for photos, and generous fans even helped contribute to Mushroomhead’s “weed charity” tip jar as the band no longer travels with illegal substances. (With tonight’s show in Maryland cancelled at the last minute, hopefully they received enough donations to get them through an extra day!)
Mushroomhead continues to breed loyal fans thanks to their extraordinary talents and innovation, and with J-Mann back in the group another 20 years of underground success should be virtually guaranteed. Likewise, Ms. Freeman and her partner Junior are well on their way to replicating Mushroomhead’s best qualities with their unique take on metal music, and will hopefully be back in New York City soon to grow their fanbase.
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