Fright Fest 2013 ripped like a gale force wind through a chilly Pittsburgh, Pa on Friday October 25th. The Altar Bar on Penn Avenue provided just enough space for 400-plus juggalos and juggalettes who crowded into the standing room-only venue to hear headliner Twiztid and a pleasingly variable array of opening acts.
The doors opened later than the advertised 6:30 pm but the crowd was shockingly patient. The crowd poured in with the traditional “whoop, whoop” cheers and was immediately greeted with a fantastic array of gear (signed glossies, medallions, shirts, jerseys, tour exclusives). If you had the cash and the patience (waits to fork over your cash for Twiztid gear took nearly 30 minutes at points) this place was Shangri-La for the dedicated masses.
The show was opened by Chronic Zombies (a local Pittsburgh Duo) who nearly stole the show in this reviewer’s humble opinion. It’s obvious that they don’t quite have the ability to play off each other to the degree of Twiztid, nor the larger-than-life swag and presence of Blaze (dude positively owns the stage) but you can see that they will get there. The Zombies (http://www.reverbnation.com/chroniczombiez) feature a shorter curly-haired guy who has a befuddled, comedic personality and a taller, close-cropped guy who delivers his lines with a “go hard all the time” edge. [Their individual names are not listed on their reverbnation entry, thus I was forced to use descriptors]. The two are superb lyricists and the star potential is there. Seeing these guys at this early stage of their careers definitely felt like finding a diamond in the rough.
Cheyne and Matthew Thorsen (http://cheyneandmatthewthorsen.com/) hit the stage with a “punk rap” sound that has to be heard to be understood. If the Sex Pistols, the Dropkick Murphys, Limp Bizkit, and Twiztid had an orgy this would be the offspring. The lead man and (hellaciously slammin’) drummer duo had the crowd in a lather of moshing and head-bobbing. They were effusively thankful to the audience and you get the sense that these two are: a) truly having fun on stage and b) genuinely appreciative of the applause. Looking forward to seeing more from these two and their incredibly original sound.
Aqualeo…sigh…. Here’s the toughest part of this review. Aqualeo (http://www.aqualeo.com/) is legit, let’s start with that. They are a very intelligent, very thought-provoking Texas-based duo who demands more from their listeners. They ask you to take an intellectual journey (a la Common) more so than a rhythmic one (my major fault in their stylings was a lack of diverse beats). Aqualeo presents a precisely (some might think overly) choreographed show and lyrics that just don’t seem well-suited to a live environment. I would buy these guys’ cd…I wouldn’t see them in person. They ooze talent…but their skills don’t translate to a show such as Fright Fest.
R.O.C. (original House of Krazees member) absolutely crushed the house. This performance had the feel of both polish and ease to it. The Detroit-based rapper (https://twitter.com/iamtheroc) rocked glowing face paint and then set the Altar Bar on fire with his crowd-pleasing rendition of “Hello” and theatrical muggings. R.O.C. is a P.R.O. and it shows.
Before he ever hit the stage, the crowd’s chants of A-B-K, A-B-K were an attempt to summon the Native American warrior/rapper to the darkened stage. Anybody Killa showed why he may be just now entering the pinnacle of his career. His spiritual lyrics are sprinkled with cannabis culture and horror humor to create something as unique as his lispy-yet hard as steel-delivery. At 40, ABK (https://www.facebook.com/pages/ABK-Anybody-Killa/121025614610565) has matured enough to deliver an incredibly satisfying stage show, but remains fresh enough to connect with the masses. The crowd loved the warrior and his set….chanting his name long after he left the confines of The Altar Bar.
The last act before the headliners is a tough spot in the lineup. You have to warm the crowd up, but not leave them hoping your set gets over quickly so they can devour the main course. Blaze Ya Dead Homie proved he was the man for the job. Blaze (http://www.thedeadmanblaze.com/) was large and in charge with a cocked Raiders cap, fresh kicks, and swinging the mic like Babe Ruth swings a bat. Blaze was nearly relentless with perfectly executed renditions of all his hits, only pausing to give a pro wrestler-esque look to the crowd as if to say, “Can you handle more of this wicked shit?” Blaze hypnotized the crowd and left them wanting more.
A bizarrely-long delay between Blaze and the closing act of Twiztid left the crowd anxious and oddly quiet. The nearly half-hour gap didn’t feature as many chants of “Family”, didn’t have the previous moshing shenanigans, and it seemed everyone was genuinely tense. Each person crowded a bit closer to the stage, jockeying to see Detroit’s best….Twiztid (http://twiztid.com/news/). Madrox and Monoxide did not disappoint. Bursting onto the stage after the witching hour (a five-plus hour show for under $25 makes Fright Fest an unreal bargain for the faygo-loving crowd), Twiztid gave the crowd a little more old school than new…and it was the right call. All the Twiztid standards were blasted throughout the now rollicking venue and it was obvious who the crowd came to see. From my own viewpoint, it was incredible watching Monoxide Child work the stage with his expressions, shout-outs (at one point singling out a fan to bust some mother-mocking lyrics to…done in jest and accepted as such by the tight-knit crowd), and poses. Jamie Madrox may be the best stage rapper alive. He willingly defers to Monoxide taking the side of the stage in a gargoyle-like crouch and a maniacal grin and then explodes in a leaping attack of center stage when his role demands it. The lighting, sound, and show were incredibly top-notch and this was a tour de force performance from the motor city maniacs. Twiztid should have possibly closed with “We Don’t Die” as this song had literally everyone in the building shouting as one. It was a surreal experience and demonstrated the unity that a Juggalo Nation crowd often displays.
The Altar Bar was a decent venue (if a bit small) and the security was unbelievably good as they walked the delicate balance between keeping things from getting out of hand without being killjoys. Overall, minor timing issues and crowding issues aside, this was a near perfect show and it put the Underground in the hands of an appreciative Pittsburgh crowd. Here’s hoping more fans decide to get Twiztid.