The Horrors at the Bowery Ballroom

November 27th, 2007
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Polkadot cravats, wildly backcombed hair, and black smudgy eyes—New York City’s Bowery Ballroom is packed with Horrors imitators. Nobody knows what to expect in the coming hours; like snowflakes, each Horrors performance is completely different from all others. Even musicians who have graced this very stage are among those awaiting the riotous act, their curiosity equal to that of teens decked in newly purchased merchandise.

Looking very Western-chic, openers The Films bring Brit rock on a vacation to their native South Carolina with Strokes-esque garage songs like “Tabletops,” energy bubbling up like a neglected teapot. Clap-along song “Black Shoes” is too fun to feel lame for participating in and bubbly “Belt Loops” induces pogoing. Even a calmer acoustic song like “Body Bag” keeps picky fans of the headliners singing along to a chorus they don’t know. The pro-Horrors crowd makes many mental notes about The Films following their set.

Only one more band stands in the way of The Horrors, and if they are anything like the highly satisfying Films it would perfect the lineup. Anticipation comes crashing down as Favourite Sons’ frat-boy fans hoot at the entrance of a man in a red scarf. One listen to the Springsteen-lovin’ “Pistols and Girls” makes it obvious that Favourite Sons aren’t bad, just miscast. All the excitement riled up by The Films fades as lead singer Ken Griffin strolls the stage slowly during “Tear the Room Apart,” a song one would think calls for jumping and screaming. One girl in the front row leans against the stage asleep, despite the amp magnifying slide guitar sounds right by her head.

Screams of happiness, not fear, echo through the venue when the lights shut off completely and strange spacey sounds seem to come from nowhere. Enter a caped figure known as Spider Webb, obscuring his face like the best B-movie vampire before going over to an organ and specter-pale drummer Coffin Joe. They immediately begin improvising, Spider’s feet dancing like he has no control over them, followed by wide-eyed bassist Tomethy Furse and devilish guitar player Joshua VonGrimm (now referred to as Third). Hiding behind a bunch of black balloons, lead vocalist Faris Rotter timidly hands several to fans up front. Before one can think of him as shy, the band bust into the raucous “Count in Fives;” “Death at the Chapel” and “She is a New Thing” follow, flowing together, escalating the madness.

Nothing within a performance space is safe from Faris Rotter: Support beams will be climbed, objects he encounters will be thrown, and audience members are sure to be pushed. Like many venues before Bowery, the guards make an enemy of Faris, who flips into a pool of hands a second time even after warnings to never attempt that stunt again. Emerging with a half-full bottle of wine stolen from a shocked witness, Rotter sends it smashing back from where it came and screams The Horrors’ breakthrough hit “Sheena is a Parasite.” In less than two strobe-lit minutes, the crowd loses every shred of sanity and flails like Samantha Morton from the song’s music video. Tomethy stares blankly, bobbing his head to the beat as VonGrimm begins drilling holes in his guitar to provide eerie distortion. “Crawdaddy Simone” keeps the crowd captivated, as does Rotter’s occasional mock-strangling of fans with his microphone chord.

While Spider simultaneously plays Josh’s guitar and his own keyboard during “Gloves,” the band begins to slip away just as they had come in. After just fifteen minutes of Horrors, a confused and quickly withdrawing group of fans stares at an empty stage. However long screams for an encore last, there will be no response—only twice ever have the Horrors returned for one last song. Some are angry at the brevity of the set, others still in a haze from what was the perfect selection by a group with exhilarating presence.

By Danielle Reicherter Posted in Features