Club is Alcatrazz and it's a goddamn disco - we should have smelled blood
right there. Mirror ball in the ceiling, computerized light show, the
whole nine yards, plus a DJ/announcer of such comprehensive ignorance
that he ought to have been dragged out back and run over. (Though he
did program a Gary Numan track.) Seems that on Saturday nights they run
an all-night techno/rave/jungle dance extravaganza cutely called Club X,
and as people begin to trickle in it's annoyingly clear that many are
only here to kill time till the dance party starts. Judging by their
dress and manner they've never heard of Marilyn Manson nor do they care.
Strike 2: The club has chopped some time out of Monster Voodoo Machine's allotted span so that a local band, Isabelle's Gift, can play a short set. Serious mistake. Not only are IG several points south of mediocre, but their irrelevant noise and the extra teardown/setup time beat the show's delicate momentum half to death, leaving MVM only about five numbers to get it back on track. Still, they probably could have done it, but for...
Strike 3: ...the Curse of the Tour's Last Night. MM's roadies, having picked up bad habits on tour with Nine Inch Nails, attack MVM the second they start their set, and the sloppy carnage doesn't let up. Eggs, tomatoes, flour and vinegar pelt the voodoo monsters who're soon a pasty mess. Good-natured yobs that they are, they take it in stride and even manage to play their songs, but you don't need the Brain to tell you revenge will be had. Not to mention that Adam, MVM singer and storyteller extraordinaire, launches an extended parody riff on Mr. Manson and proves to be a wickedly good mimic, savaging several of the Rev's onstage bits with scathing accuracy right down to the scarred voice and convulsive shakes. Best is his attempt to get the crowd to chant "We hate chickens... chickens hate Manson..." It's so funny we're doubled over laughing but it's so acid we hope Manson can't hear or see it. To underscore strike 1, we - and Isabelle's Gift - are the only ones laughing, pretty clear proof that no one else here has seen MM play. [And some jokes were inside enough to go even past people who HAD seen MM two or three times; Adam told the crowd "Now, when they come on, every one of you scream 'I wanna fuck Jeordie in the ass!'" but we, mere newbies then, didn't yet know who Jeordie was...=]
It's also pretty clear MVM think the Mansons are pussies for sending their crew to do this instead of doing their own dirty work. (And we've learned why Manson torched the drums last night. He thought it was the last show of the tour - this one's a last-minute reschedule of one cancelled earlier on. Tonight came as a shock.)
So MVM's set ends in total comic disarray, plus garbage galore, and the mood of the room's a shambles. Psychic trash with no focus or intention, laughter, boredom; the Mansons have nothing whatever to work with and are going to have to start from a cold standstill. Plus there's still virtually no one here. The stagefront is so vacant that even mosh-shy coyote & I head down to stand with the gang [EVB plus pals Deb, Eric and Chris]. My chest's tight and I'm choking on my attempts at trance breathing. I know it's going to be bad.
It gets worse. Among the MM roadies scoots a double agent - Chris, the Mansons' sound technician - who having orchestrated the assault on MVM has now apparently advised them on the best way to get back at the Mansons: raw chicken, sackfuls of it. While some are futilely trying to sweep and clear the plastered stage (did you know that vinegar/flour paste will set like concrete?
I didn't...), others from the Voodoo crew are carefully placing chicken legs everywhere, on keyboards, between foot pedals, impaling whole fryers on mike stands - making sure MM can't avoid encountering dead flesh. The vibe is nasty, baffling. I can't explain it but it's suffocating. They're walking into a trap here and there's no way to help them. I double my efforts to trance; I want to be as calm as I can, stabilize things somehow.
Darkness, red light, smoke - the lead-in as familiar now as your name. Concentrate. I'm leaning on the stage right in front of Daisy's guitar pedals, Madonna's keyboard ahead of me stage rear. There's no backstage, nowhere to lurk and prepare, they'll have to walk through the audience (MVM did) to get here... Deb has carefully scratched "God of Fuck" in the flour paste on the stage and framed it in drumsticks. Cripes, I wish I'd brought another toy.
They walk on and you can tell they're colliding with the unexpected and unseen debris. They mutter and cuss as they wait in the red dark. The suspense is paralyzing.
I don't see where he comes from, he just passes me, slowly, tight and thin as a line. He's wearing his black frock coat and Puritan hat, his makeup's all pale tonight, with a black line drawn down his brow. He looks as fragile as a shell, translucent. Pulls the mikestand toward him, turns his head and is face to face with - a whole chicken, impaled on the mike. Disdainfully he shakes it into the crowd, looks around him and grates robotically, "...there is meat all over the stage..."
--then smashes the stand into himself and they begin.
It turns bad fast. Manson's disgusted by the meat everywhere but as fast as he throws it away it's thrown back at him, ground into their carpet and the treads of his boots. Daisy steps onto his footpedals only to have a leg roll under his foot; he grimaces in disgust. Madonna's keyboard fails him and he loses his temper, screaming as he tangles with the stand and smashes it into the stage (and nearly into Daisy and us). Sara Lee's doing his best on the hastily scrounged new drumkit. Everything Monster Voodoo had satirized is yanked from the show, leaving gaping holes. The minimal crowd's mood shifts from indifference to carnival hostility, catcalling and laughing, pelting the band with chicken, hotdogs and ice cubes. Big game of Tease the Freaks.
Manson's in agony. It's wrenching to watch. Bewilderment, misery and raw pain pouring out of him in waves, wide anguished eyes. It's not working, and he can't tell why. Determinedly, almost pitiably, he tries to carry through his ritual before these grinning idiots. "Dope Hat" was never truer, "Sweet Dreams" is one long acid burn, people try to toss chicken parts into the sacred fire during "Lunchbox". Food, by now torn and ground into unrecognizible lumps, keeps hitting him from all sides. His acceptance is terrible - it's as if he's sure he deserves it. Self-loathing as dense as black smoke. That's what I get.
God, he seems so vulnerable. And young. Nearly naked, bare white skin and bones as fine as wire (the Puritan garb had gone long since). The barrage of mindless cruelty buffets him like a hail of rocks, shattering his careful structure. He doesn't seem strong enough to fight it. The ritual's all he has and it's gone and every fought-for step is one deeper into the razor maze. A woman's pushed onstage by those damned laughing roadies - she doesn't come near him but she's in his tiny, crumbling space, and he recoils in terror, flowing backwards so fast he goes right over our heads and into the audience, looking for someone to hide behind. He spots stocky Deb, a solid wall of crewcut punkette, and chooses her - she's creeped-out but stands her ground; I silently bless her, and the woman who caught him when he poured over us. I try to touch him - he's right there - but his negation is like a shell of ice. Don't touch me. But I have to. When he's returned to the stage I have to.
And I think he can tell. I get a look from him - one moment, surprised, conscious, the clear brown eye actually sees me - and when a minute later he's huddled on the stagefloor close by I push through the ice and touch his back. It's not much but it's all I have and I try to push everything I want to send him through my fingers, sympathy, protective anger, care. I hope he gets it. He hardly feels solid. His skin is smooth and cold.
It goes on like a nightmare. "Lunchbox" actually began "Next motherfucker's gonna get my chicken" - was Manson trying to use the situation to his advantage somehow, or did he not mean to say that? Either way it ended almost before it could start, and he left his cube perch to grab Daisy's guitar neck and silence it, talking quickly and emphatically to Daisy - "Stop, it's not right, it's not right." Daisy listened intently, nodding, obviously trying to calm him down by giving full support. It began over....
Now he tells the crowd that tonight is the last show of the tour and there's a way to end it... I don't know how we can stand any more, the pain he's in is so awful, tearing at your heart and guts with nails like razors. He claws at his thin belly with both hands, trying to hurt or gut himself or stop it somehow, and when that doesn't work he breaks a bottle that's been thrown onstage and poises its jagged edge at his skin. Even that doesn't seem to move them, even driving him to that.
In a horror so pure it's like being locked in glass I just watch him press the bottle edge into his stomach. I can't move. His hand's steady. What will I do if he does? How will I live with it?
Somehow he thinks better of serious harm in the last second, and just draws a line with it, long, bright red. A slow drop rolls down the pale skin. The bottle falls --
I don't know what comes next. I don't know whether to vomit or cry. Somehow with a courage that's none short of heroic they finish the set and even do an encore - a jaggedly appropriate "Helter Skelter" - and then they're gone and he's gone.
And some cheerful idiot is tapping my shoulder to ask if this is a Morbid Angel t-shirt I'm wearing. I scream at him. I go out into the lobby and I'm still screaming. It's that or find a broken bottle.
....well. Say I overreacted if you want to.
But, cross me, it *was* that bad.
(Worth mentioning, by the way, that he didn't seem to've been in the habit of cutting himself prior to this. No visible gashes/scars. So I think reacting to it as a desperation move and not as a shock special-effect was appropriate.)