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Baby Fiend
Release the Bats – Que Sera
Long Beach, CA
November 22, 2002
~review and photos by Blu

Baby Fiend is Sonya Fiend - a one time Ghoulschool door girl and an always prominent figure in the Hollywood deathrock scene. Everyone seems to know Sonya and loves her so it was not a huge surprise to find Release the Bats absolutely PACKED for her first performance as Baby Fiend. The amazing thing was that it filled up well before 11pm with a more-eclectic than usual mixture of who's who in the California scene. Eye candy was everywhere and the stage was tantalizingly draped in a mysterious white sheet. An unusual but oddly appropriate quote from Milton adorned the front in ghoulishly precise scrawl hinting at what was to come. It read: "Into this wild abyss the wary fiend stood on the brink of hell and looked a while."

A little back history might be necessary for you dear readers to truly appreciate this performance. Without getting into too many personal details Sonya Fiend is nothing short of hero to me. She has, single handedly, taken her life into her own hands and shaped what was a seemingly dire and hopeless situation and re-made herself for the better. So many people talk of making these changes but Sonya actually did them. She took charge of her life in a big way and although I miss seeing her smiling face at the door at Ghoulschool I am so proud of what she is accomplishing that I don't complain. Earlier in 2002, if I recall correctly, she had a conversation with one Mr. Yellow from the delightful band Cinema Strange in which she confessed her secret desire to sing. Yellow gave her some short but firm advice: if you really want to do it you should go for it. (I'm sure he worded it better than that but that's the gist of it). Idea in hand, new can-do attitude propelling her and off she goes. She's made up her mind to be singer. Sound a bit ambitious? Don't underestimate a fiend.

Some short time later I hear she's already *recording* with no other than the tribal drumming legend - Ray Mondo (of Ritual/Death Cult / Sex Gang Children fame) who is serving as her producer and I think to myself, "when this girl makes up her mind to do something, she goes all the way!" Fast forward another couple months and at one occurrence of Release the Bats she hands me a promo EP with a slick cover designed by Mark Splatter and announces that she'll be performing at Bats soon.  Wow. Now that's called getting it done. From idea, to recording, to performing in less than a year.

Fast forward again to November 22nd, nearly midnight and I can hardly breath in the standing-room only capacity of Release the Bats. People are already pressed up against the stage and as far back as the bar eagerly wondering what is behind the curtain. All the Release the Bat and Ghoulschool regulars are there plus members of Cinema Strange, Element, Frankenstein and Tragic Black. Most notable however is the presence of Gitane DeMone and Ray Mondo who've no doubt come specifically to see Sonya's first performance along with a huge assortment of people I've never seen out before that I can only assume are friends and acquaintances that Sonya has equally impressed with her ambition.

There's movement behind the curtain, lights flickers and the drape comes down to reveal a bizarre Garden of Eden. The stage is covered with a strange, glowing assortment of things: two mannequins - one whole and dressed up in what seems to be a reminder of bad fashion from the 80s and the other missing an arm but having at least five legs that are striped in fluorescent paint like some beautiful alien - set among colorful tropical flowers and even more body parts with snakes weaving here and there out of the pile. A sign pinned to one mannequin reads "Evolution" and on the other are the words, "Dare to Change." Behind that are four white panels draped down the walls each with inspirational quotes:

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" - Mahatma Gahndi
"Virtue is internal beauty and beauty external virtue" - Francis Bacon
"War can still settle problems but it can only settle them the wrong way" - Bertrand Russell
"Man is not who he is and is who he is not" - Jean Paul Sartre

On stage are two chairs and lone mic. No band tonight. Tonight Sonya is facing the crowd as a lone vocalist with some backing tracks. Not exactly an easy order to fill; not an ideal way to do the show and quite possibly the first time something like this has been done at RTBs but it's a compromise she's comfortable with and brave enough to do in order to conquer the inevitable getting your feet wet. Sonya takes the stage in a pink jacket (the word “evolve” clearly visible), a pressed button down striped shirt and form fitting long black skirt looking like a stylish school marm re-made into Siouxsie.  On the bottom of her skirt is the word “Benevolence.” Accompanying her are two male dancers and thank god for that. I’m so tired of seeing bimbos on stage with nothing but thongs and electric tape (see my review of Seraphim Shock) that it’s about time there was a little equal opportunity voyeurism – and in this case, a little artsy culture. They are dressed in strange fluorescent rags and boots with stylized makeup. They too have messages for us: “Follow Your Heart” and “Have Faith.” 

The music ques up and from that point on it’s a whirlwind in my mind. The boys do precise choreographed dances and sometimes use props like umbrellas, the chairs, and bowls of flower petals that they lavish on the crowd. And Sonya, well, she’s off like she’s a seasoned pro. As much faith as I had in her, I was still shocked at how *well* she took command of the stage and made it her own. She was dramatic and dynamic – moving all over, singing to people, and inviting them in. She had more stage presence than 80% of the bands I saw last year. The pink jacket comes off at some point and she reminds me even more of Siouxsie -- her face full of expression and meaning. Later the shirt comes off revealing a lace top and Sonya’s looking less and less like a school marm by each song. By the end of the set the skirt’s gone too leaving garters and under things much to the delight of the crowd while Sonya smirk knowingly and says, “This is what you were waiting for wasn’t it?”  She sings the songs from the EP that I’m familiar with – “Rain Your Love” and “Isolation” and a clear favorite – “Ties That Bind” which received wild applause as the first notes ring out. There must have been other songs that night but no set list was to be had. Her voice was strong and clear and full of animation and to all that was there that night, it was very apparent that she has what it takes to be a performer. At the end, the crowd roared with approval and Sonya, blushing with watery eyes thanked everyone for supporting her. Afterwards the crowd consumed her – hugs and well wishes from friends were abundant and even some flowers. 

Watching the crowd gather around the humble star of the night, seeing the smiles  and reading over the words on the back walls again; I got teary eyed. Here were so many positive feelings and energy from a person who had, in the past, every reason to hate life. Here were words of hope and kindness and bravery. And this – this good-natured support that allows people to strive for and accomplish their dreams – is what the scene that I love is all about. I hear she’s putting together a band for future performances. I can’t WAIT to see what she shows us next. Cheers Sonya!

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