Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA., 11/15/00.
["dress me up and make me your dying god"]

Part 1 of 2: Grits and Sloth Sausage

Coyote and I arrive about 2:30 PM with Dr. Jones (TAFKAKlyph). Too damn cold, windy and only intermittently sunny. About 25 kids are already there, including Mike/Flagboy (with his new Mercury flag!) and Bev. We queue, the line slowly grows. There's a brief surprise appearance by Philly Carrie, back from L.A., but the line is otherwise weirded by the loss of regulars: no Regina, no Kristen, no Slashers...the kiddies are all growing up and getting job/school commitments... [Later learn that Carrie & Kristen got there just in time for the show, but I never saw Kristen *snif* ] Sticky Jeff is there, though; Rudy arrives to hang with our trio, and much later, Marty pulls in with his much-celebrated limousine. (You may have read that the limo Trent & Manson rode in for the "Starfuckers Inc." video was auctioned off? Well, Marty was the high bidder. He's spent the months since then calling on just about everyone he knows and offering them rides around town. Coyote and I had already had the pleasure of meeting the limo, but Rudy and Jones hadn't, and went off with Marty to be introduced. =)

WYSP Radio, the local station sponsoring the shows, arrives with its vans and announces the winners of their Manson-related art contest: winners to get tix and backstage passes to tomorrow night's show. Several line-waiters are hoping to win, but none do. WYSP then treats us to "Disposable Teens", followed by a few past singles - we have some fun singing the lyrics of "D-Teens" to the tune of "Beautiful People" - and all of Mechanical Animals. (Why MA and not the new one? We puzzle. Maybe MA is more radio-friendly? It's not a popular choice with the line, however.)

DAMN it's cold, the wind sharpening as the sun goes down. Dusk comes and the cloudy sky glows a moody, industrial magenta. (Behind me I hear, "Look, the sky's purple. That's because Manson's here.") The shivering kids are trying novel ways of keeping warm, like buttoning two thin people inside one voluminous overcoat. Mike, who has been walking around sockless in rubber sandals - his brand new boots chewed huge blisters in his heels last night - accepts the loan of a blanket to wrap around his nearly blue feet.

Finally, after 4 1/2 hours in the freeze, we're introduced to the EF's new entry policy...

We'd already seen the "zero tolerance" antidrug signs that also said no weapons, markers or stickers were allowed in - though, oddly, nothing about chains or spikes; they forgot to mention that until later. And nothing about laser pointers, for maybe other reasons. (Interesting new sign: "Due to the danger of injury associated with moshing and/or crowd surfing, we ask that you refrain from these activities. - Marilyn Manson." Certainly the first time we've seen such a notice directly attributed to the band; Jones, who was at two earlier shows on this tour, says it wasn't seen there.) The venue, however, also failed to mention that, due to the new requirement for a full pat-down search, the line would be split in two, girls/boys; so no matter where in line you were or how long you'd been there, the resulting scramble displaced you in a flash. Crap.

Between the searches and the general line-reshuffle, by the time coyote and I get inside the rail is already three-deep. Ahhh, well. We get hand-stamped and head up to the balcony.

The outside sign had already told us that third band Industrial Union were off the bill tonight, so their space is filled by another run-through of the Beatles' "White Album". (Why couldn't Godhead play a bit longer then? Because so much of their set is on DAT that it really isn't feasible for them to just add songs with no notice. Sign o'the times.) The "White Album" fades into the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" and then the "Let It Bleed' album, giving us lots of time to play connection games, and finally it's lights out...

Godhead play. They're good, and fun to watch. Singer Jason looks like a Cenobite Billy Corgan in multi-buckled black (or maybe Corgan as Nosferatu - coyote notes he has pointed ears), and he's backed by an albino Robin Finck on bass and a cool-looking guitarist with tasseled Daisy B. hair and staccato guitar-star moves who looks like Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid - Jason's brother, it turns out. Sound is Goth-Industrial hard rock with a nice melodic sense, and it warms up the initially cool crowd within about five songs. Little mosh pits even open up here and there. (Never thought I'd be watching kids mosh to "Eleanor Rigby", but GH's cover of said gloom classic gets just that response.) --Fun. I'll be looking forward to the rest of their sets.

ANYway. Lights up, we're back to the Stones,and the packed crowd surges forward. I'm feeling lucky to be in the balcony. GH's roadies scurry to get their stuff outa the MM crew's way, and then a huge white scrim curtain drops from the ceiling, completely veiling the stage from view save for quick shadows. (Ha, they must've really liked the effects they got with that on the Mechanical tour.) We watch the shadows; we wait.

Cut the Stones, cut the lights...

Green spinning lights start hitting the screen from behind. Huge roar from the crowd. A distorted voice, gasping and sobbing, is reciting something. Obviously Manson - I can't make him out, there's too much crowd noise and the distortion on the voice is so extreme. But the cadence is so familiar....wait, got it: "days of my life...and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever."

Of course. The 23rd Psalm. "Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil." (But did he say "Valley of the Shadow" or "Shadow of the Valley"? Check tomorrow night.) And while he's agonizing through the psalm, lights are flashing, casting fast shadows on the white curtain - there's the shape of his head, but he's shrouded in a huge drape or cloak, streaming off to each side, or is it -

The light blazes, fixing the shadow: vast wings, spanning the whole width of the stage, you can see the open feathertips. I can hear people gasp in awe. There's just enough time to grasp the beauty of the image before the curtain rises and we see him. The shadow's cast by a huge streamer/stole with feather-cut ends; he's leaning into it with arms spread wide, transformed in an instant from ominous death-angel to Renaissance Christ. He raises his arms, the stole is whisked away to the rafters, and there they are.

The set's not complex: two big risers for Ginger left and Pogo right, done in frosted window panels, a few of 'em broken (or painted) out for that post-apoc look. Two smaller semicircles downstage for Manson to perch on. Everything else moves on and off. Manson's in high black corset w/codpiece, garters, laced leg guards, black tights and boots; nothing else, so lots of butt shots. =) Twig's got a neat new long beige dress with long sleeves and complicated buttons/stitchwork, plus his usual combat boots; post-dread haircut is growing out nicely. J5's in long vinyl coat, shorts, ripped nylons and boots; can't really see Ginger or Pogo but Pogo's got this wonderful new spring-mounted keyboard that glows w/green & blue lights and looks like a design by Dr. Seuss. And we're off with a blast into "Hate Anthem"...

There's lots of fun stuff =) The stilts, now making their third tour, reappear for "Tourniquet", Manson gliding around and lurking down over Twig and J5's heads like a monster mantis. The fur coat he drags out for "Dope Show" looks so much like the rabbitskin fleatrap he bought in Asbury Park five years ago that coyote and I both crane way over the rail to see is it maybe the same. Some goon is holding up a big sign we can't see [it said "John 5 = Suck"] and throwing handfuls of coins at the band (Kennedy half-dollars, ironically enough)--that gets Manson really riled, and he demands the holder come up and deal with him, even stepping offstage to find him ("he had glasses and he was really fat - where is that motherfucker?") but the culprit had enough firing brain cells to make himself scarce. (We later hear he was still around after the show but somehow managed to elude further threats of ass-stomping. --Footnote: Sticky Jeff cornered him on-line later that night and found out his problem was nothing more than misguided loyalty to past lineups. Uh-huh whatever. It should still be pointed out to him that it's nearly 2001 and living in the past is for grownups.)

But...
The set is a quilt of new, MA and ACSS stuff that slowly proceeds to make perfect sense, and goes a step past ACSS. It's about the journey from rebellion thru self-salvation to self-sacrifice, or an understanding of sacrifice. It's haunting and tragic and desperate.
It scares me.

The segues are inspired. Old chestnut "Sweet Dreams" feels bizarrely twisted when slotted in between "Burning Flag" (sweet dreams are made of what?) and "Valentine's Day". "Fight Song" to "My Monkey/Lunchbox" to "Rock Is Dead"is brilliant: "You'll never grow up to be a big rock star/celebrated victim of your fame" just had to be followed by a flashback to the original schoolkid wish for that exact future and wrapped by a flash-forward to the rockstar future-self at his worst, bitter and cynical Omega, the kid dream turned to tinfoil and ashes. And then Manson makes a great anti-politics, anti-system speech that's full of DIY, "nothing matters but you and us" spirit, but follows it with a staggering transition from "Valentine's Day" - Manson in a bishop's robes and mitre, singing over an altar with his own head on it - to "Love Song" - Manson splattered with blood, up in that red (yeah, no longer black) pulpit with its artillery cross - that just about screams I AM YOUR STAR, I AM A WILLING SACRIFICE, READY TO DIE. And then there's that 20-foot-high Floria Sigismondi hydraulic skirt that he sings "Cruci-fiction in Space" from the very top of....

It's just all too much about the power and magick of celebrity assassination. But is there more? Is it about control, about choosing one's own death, the decision to lay oneself on the altar? The power of the freely-given offering, the sacrifice that goes consenting? About becoming a 21st-century saint and icon? Is that submission or transcendence or both? The murdered hero lives forever in the people's hearts; the dying god dies willingly with fall's harvest to return with the green leaves of spring. Is it confidence that the right death will bring your spirit untellable power, that it's wise to know when to end a life? Or does he just not know what the fuck else to do?

Whichever - I don't know yet - it scared the hell out of me. I walked out of there feeling rattled in a way I haven't been in years. Paradoxically it still carries that old rallying vibe of "your life's up to you, and you can do it, yes you can" - it makes you feel lazy-butt-kicked and newly brave - while at the same time it's in the shadow of the valley of death, stalked by a terrible sense of fate and fatality. Sing the death song, kids; we've got no future, and we wanna be just like you.



After that it was hard to settle, and it's probably significant that the coda is particularly silly...we ended up at Denny's, watching nonstop infomercials on their green TV, deciding that a nastily-mushy sausage was made of giant sloth meat (fatigue hallucinations of giant sloths had featured prominently in Dr. Jones' tales of previous adventures this tour), and listening bemused while the front-counter guy informed a cook that a customer had just complimented her work: "Your grits are the bomb!" he announced over the microphone. She proudly responded that her grits were indeed the bomb, and this immediately became the highest praise for anything we approved of in the next 24 hours, maybe longer....

Stay tuned for Part 2: "Besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"


Setlist for these shows: (underlined songs are new)

Irresponsible Hate Anthem
Death Song
Disposable Teens

Great Big White World
Tourniquet
Fight Song
My Monkey/Lunchbox
Rock Is Dead
Dope Show
Cruci-fiction in Space
Burning Flag

Sweet Dreams
Valentine's Day
Love Song

Beautiful People
Reflecting God
Encore 9/15: Astonishing Panorama of the End Times
Encore 9/16: 1996

....return to main gig review page.
...go on to the next night.