Horny Blast

Crashing the carnival at Cooper'stown

Who needs TV when I've got T. Rex?"

Not local glam/'70s rock throwback band Crash Street Kids, who sing the legendary line from the David Bowie-penned "All the Young Dudes" with a sincerity that saves them from the "poseur" label.

On a recent Friday night, I'm watching CSK play, along with my friend Bones and her husband Chazz, at Alice Cooper'stown. None of us had heard the band before, but word was they put on an over-the-top, arena-rock-type show in small clubs, which is great for an indie act that most people haven't heard of. Hey, it worked for KISS, a band of nobodies that got up on stage in 1973, proclaimed themselves the best, and set about proving it with a bombastic stage show of orgiastic explosions and bloody tongue wagging.

According to the invite, this is a "Supersonic Star Show" here, complete with fire eaters, sword swallowers, stilt walkers, cheerleaders, and performances by Crash Street Kids, Cut Throat Freak Show, and Abbi Normal.

The flier also mentions something about "a marching band like you've never seen before," which Bones, Chazz and I think sounds kinda lame.

Little do we know what's really coming.

We hunker on the balcony with four Red Bulls, four Jack and Cokes, and a sampler platter with hot wings, potato skins, chicken strips, pork sandwiches, and French fries. We were already a little fucked up when we got here, and since all three of us have a bit of the clan of the trailer inside of us, we eat with our fingers, drip grease into our laps, and wipe our hands on our jeans while Cut Throat Freak Show performs on the stage below.

There's nothing "freaky" or "cut throat" about Cut Throat Freak Show's performance. There are some belly dancers balancing swords on their heads, accompanied by a few people pounding out snake-charmer-type rhythms on drums and a woman playing a hand saw with a bow and singing exotic-sounding, high-pitched operatic vocals.

Crash Street Kids take the stage amidst a flash bomb of colored lights and smoke. The band's show is quite a spectacle, complete with confetti bombs, graffiti, cheerleaders, and a punk with a huge purple Mohawk shaking his fist in front of the stage. But CSK is about to be upstaged by the surreal madness that is Portland, Oregon's March Fourth Marching Band.

When I first hear the brass horns blowing down Jackson Street toward Cooper'stown, I expect to see maybe a dozen people come marching through the gate. Instead, an army of freaks comes streaming onto the stage and the surrounding floor — a drum section decked out in Cabaret-on-crack costumes, complete with booby-busting bustiers and caps adorned with huge black feathers; Betty Boop girls in black and white polka dot dresses twirling red umbrellas; dreadlocked hippies blowing horns in hobo costumes; stilt walkers in zoot suits doing funky chickens and Riverdance kicks in the crowd — everything but Danny Bonaduce in a tree. There must be at least 30 people in this crazy ensemble, and they're all whooping and hollering, Woodstock Festival-style, in a bizarre brass jam swollen with funk and carnival sass. It's like Mr. Bungle meets A Clockwork Orangeinside a raucous 1920s speakeasy.

Chazz is hanging over the balcony rail, still swooning from our pre-show chemical holiday. "This reminds me of a bad dream I had," he says, unable to tear his eyes away.

Bones can't stop laughing. "Did we do acid before we came here? Did you dose us?"

"I like a good marching band," Chazz says with a sigh.

"Did I just hear my husband say he likes a good marching band?" Bones asks. "Okay, now I knowwe're all fucked up."

We end up staying on the balcony for March Fourth's entire performance, which is the most amazing thing I've ever seen at Cooper'stown. The volume alone is awesome — the crazy carnival jazz must have bled onto the hip-hop dance floors at Jackson's on 3rd. Everywhere, there are painted faces, shiny brass, and undulating bodies in crazy costumes. "There's so much to look at!" Bones exclaims.

We didn't stay for Abbi Normal. It wasn't fair to let anybody follow that act. So we headed to my house to blow the dust off my T. Rex albums.

 
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