Evil Scarecrow photos: Ian Jenkinson
Metal may be a serious business and not many would disagree with that notion, but humour can go a long way and is very much a requirement following the last 18 months. Even the most serious of metal heads cannot fail to be swayed by Nottingham’s Evil Scarecrow and there is nothing finer than the sight of a full Bloodstock field scuttling left and right with pincers aloft (more about that later) or a synchronised robot (and that) with props that look like they have come from a bad children’s TV programme.
First up is US alt-rock duo In The Whale who recently released the full length album Vanishing Point. Dressed head to toe in white, the Denver twosome certainly take no prisoners and make something of a glorious noise. One audience member was heard to exclaim “they’re so angry!” and this may be with good cause, both guitarist/vocalist Nathanial Valdez and drummer/vocalist Eric Riley grew up in conservative religious households and lyrically, In The Whale do not come up short on the rebellion front. It is a coiled spring-like show and the tiny stage surrounded by the headliner’s equipment can hardly contain it but like a two person bomb going off both Valdez and Riley are tightly wound and the energy that they conduct is breath taking. Valdez’s guitar rarely stays in one place, the man is a blur, furiously grabbing the microphone or leaping onto Riley’s bass drum. Riley is no slacker either, the drum to the side so the audience can see him hammer those skins and while belting out vocals too. With an impish grin Riley informs the audience that “this is a song about Jeffrey Dahmer” – it was hardly going to be a ballad but Jeffrey is a throat grabbing crash of the music which shakes to the core. Channelling alt rock through punk but crossing musical borders, In The Whale is intense but there is a twisted catharsis to this two man whirlwind. A ‘one to watch’ band for sure.
When the headliners describe themselves as parody black metal then arriving onto stage to Stan Bush’s The Touch really should set the scene, but Evil Scarecrow have not even begun to let loose yet. Anyone that knows the quintet will have more than an idea as to what to expect but for anyone that does not – this is what lunacy set to music looks like. Evil Scarecrow is an absolute riot and while “parody” may suggest that this is a band that takes their audience for mugs then think again, the Scarecrow are excellent musicians. However, there is a problem as lead vocalist/guitarist Dr Hell’s guitar and vocals are practically inaudible; the drums and bass fully take over. Maybe it is a technical hitch and it will be fixed but five songs in and there is no change; audience members are shouting “we can’t hear the vocals”, one is leaning over the barrier and someone else goes to the sound desk. Eventually, Dr Hell does say something and apologises for the vocals but states “you don’t need to hear me, we’re here to have fun.” Ordinarily, this would be a huge issue but Dr Hell is right – this is Evil Scarecrow and what they have in store more than makes up for patchy sound. In fairness by Robototron, the sound had improved but it could have been better.
Evil Scarecrow is – as the band puts it – version 5.0 with two new members, Alice Babylon on keys and Count Gravedigga on guitar. The new members knit well within the band dynamic; when he is not busting out his breakdance moves, Gravedigga is never still but how any of them navigates each other and the other madness on stage – and a small one at that – while playing is nothing short of a mystery. The band airs recent new song Master Of The Dojo and prior to this asking if anyone in Sheffield still had a DVD player. Following handing out a 5ft pair of chopsticks the proffered challenge was to catch a fly with the chopsticks. Said fly appeared dangling from a pole and while this herculean effort to win a DVD was occurring, the two ninjas appearing in front of drummer Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist offered cards in order that the audience can join in. It is utter chaos but it is impossible not to find it funny and the band play around it all like true professionals.
One of the two major crowd pleasers – Robototron – has the audience performing the requisite dance, arms held out like a robot and then move in a square fashion to that robotic beat. For Polterghost, someone is under a sheet and for Space Dementia, there is a flying saucer on a pole, a huge robot and someone else in an inflatable astronaut suit bobbing around the stage like they just stepped onto the moon – at one point there is a total of nine people on the tiny stage. Before Hurricanado the band requests fists in the air and also a second competition that everyone turns around one hundred times and the first one to be sick wins…you guessed it, a DVD. Evil Scarecrow even makes stock clearances funny. Hurricanado is a thrashy number with a haunting refrain but the pure joy crowning glory has to be Crabulon from the excellent Gallactic Hunt album. If the audience did not already know what to do, the militaristic beat has everyone scuttling left and then scuttling right with their crab pincers raised in the air and naturally, there is a space crab on stage guiding them all the way. It is impossible not to get involved, it is utterly ludicrous but in terms of performance, it is terrific fun. Practically every single tune has a belly laugh attached and while it is not difficult to see why a field full of metal heads getting involved is quite a sight in itself, Evil Scarecrow prove that it works no matter how big the stage or the audience.
Dr Hell does get serious for one moment reflecting on the last 18 months and how important everyone involved with the band, the industry as a whole and not to mention the fans of music that have patiently waited for it to come back. It’s heart felt and a moment where everyone in the room can relate. Having gigs back, enjoying music, being with like minded people.
As the band leaves the stage, there are grins abound and walking out into the Sheffield air, there is the fuzziness of it being a thoroughly entertaining evening. As much as the sound was nowhere near what it should be, nothing was spoiled in terms of enjoyment and a night out with a band that loves what they are doing and bringing the fun and silliness that everyone so desperately needs at the moment.