Top 5 musical moments from Kenosha’s 2013 Ride of the Living Dead
We salute you, Zombie Pope.
Since their first ride in 2007, the folks behind Kenosha’s Handlebars and Bars and Ride of the Living Dead have seen their semiannual bike pub crawl grow from a humble crew of 40 bikers to legions of several hundred. While the summer’s Handlebars and Bars event is popular in its own right, it’s October’s Ride of the Living Dead that brings the real freaks out at night (and during the day, natch). This past weekend, a few select Kenosha watering holes became dens of the walking dead as legions of zombies biked, lurched, and stumbled (you know, because of the booze) from one bar to the next, all the while being entertained by some noisy goodness from some of the Midwest’s noisiest bands. Here are the top five musical highlights as witnessed through the eyes of one of the musical participants. (The author’s band, Body Futures, took the stage at Hattrix.)
5. Heavy Hand gets backed into a corner
The early afternoon weather caused a bit of consternation for any undead with overly loose flesh, as a brief rainstorm threatened to slough extraneous scabs and sores off to the sewers. The rain also forced Milwaukee indie-punk trio Heavy Hand to abandon their setup in TG’s beer garden and take shelter in a corner off the front door. And good thing, because Heavy Hand’s brand of straight-up, no-bullshit buzzsaw noise-punk is much more suited to rocking out on the floor of a jam-packed room than a spacious outdoor stage area. The band kept its amps cranked to outside volumes as guitarist Anthony Weber alternated between screaming into the mic and bopping into the path of any zombie that happened to be in the doorway at the time. Bassist Isa Carini enjoyed the designation of “first zombified musician of the day” as she slammed out her fuzzed-to-hell bass-lines with blood running from her eyes and throat, and an appropriately stone-faced expression. Of course, by the time Heavy Hand had finished, the sun was poking through and drying out the streets for the ride to the next bar.
4. Waxeater winds up the moshing dead
During a frenzied and loud-as-hell set of thick, grating, pounding noise rock at Motor Alley, Waxeater guitarist Rob Montage threw a few verbal volleys into the crowd in order to A) rile up the masses and B) get them to deliver him sweet, sweaty booze. Repeated cries for a whiskey and water eventually bore fruit as no fewer than three cups of shred juice made their way to the stage next to Montage’s pedal board. The initially indifferent crowd was eventually won over, cheering slightly louder after every track from Wax’s new Baltimore Record LP (available for pre-order right now from Milwaukee’s own Latest Flame Records) and eventually erupting with glee as the band pulled out its signature cover of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.” Even in a room of booze-saturated undead, the surefire way to get a crowd into your self-written jams is, well, play a killer cover song.
3. Fake Limbs’ Stephen Sowley straight-up humps a dude mid-set
Chicago’s Fake Limbs are slowly but surely building a buzz in their hometown with a raucous, combustible live show often featuring shirtless, sweaty guitar players throwing themselves into the almost-guaranteed mosh pit that generates as they throw down their Second City Touch and Go Records-informed riffage. The unquestioned star of the show is self-styled “grizzly femme” frontman Stephen Sowley, who takes to his frontman role with a distinctly David Yow-cum-Fozzy Bear relish. Sowley turned the entire Brat Stop 2 into his personal den of cubs by storming through the crowd, tearing fake cobwebs from the ceiling, and delivering his lines with the cotton hanging from his mouth and wrapped around the stoic body of bassist Mat Biscan. By the time Sowley cornered one unfortunate (or was that fortunate?) zombified barfly in a corner, essentially humping him into submission while howling about his Man Feelings (coincidentally the title of Fake Limbs’ stellar debut disc), the area immediately in front of the stage was in fully frenzied mosh mode. (Bonus points to the Brat Stop for setting up the “stage area” on the floor between the dart boards and the requisite “The bull starts here” position marker on the floor. Nicely played, gang.)
2. Zombie nerds vs. zombie punx
As is the case in any testosterone-riddled mosh pit, tempers can flare, and what was playful shoving can quickly turn a corner into antagonistic shit-stirring. This was the case during the later moments of the chaotic Fake Limbs set, as fake cobwebs continued to ensnare the band and it became harder and harder to identify where “audience” ended and “stage area” began. Right in the thick of it spun Zombie Urkel and Zombie Street Punk, pushing and slamming into each other until pushing became shoving and shoving became “oh, you wanna go, motherfucker?” posturing. Finally, a few of their fellow pale-faced compatriots in the pit had to force the two of them apart and force cooler heads to prevail. Oh, Zombie Urkel, settle down. There’s enough cheese for everyone at this party.
1. A tribute to Zombie Pope, ROTLD’s audience MVP
From openers Heavy Hand to Sabbath-flavored closers Jap Herron, the well-lubricated Riders of the Living Dead made sure to make every band on the trail feel like rock starts in their own personal “Thriller” video. Zombie Boy Wonder, Zombie Nun, and Zombie...Zombie all showed uncharacteristic life while letting it rip in appreciation of the rock. But one zombie went above and beyond the call of duty, inserting himself into every crowd, every front row, and most importantly, every photo. Whether it was during Waxeater’s amps-on-11 crowd-pummeling or the Band of the Living Dead’s goofball horror-punk cover song spectacular, Zombie Pope was up in front, nodding his approval and waving at his congregation. And sure, maybe he was a bit butthurt when Wax’s Rob Montage nipped his “storm the stage” gambit in the bud, but he took the kiss-off with good humor and continued to dance his life away (even losing his miter at one point during the Body Futures set). Zombie Pope, A.V. Club Milwaukee salutes you.