see all the photos from this concert here

White Chapel Fiends
Release the Bats - Que Sera 
Long Beach, CA
August 27th, 2004
~review and photos by Blu

As usual it was a battle of wills between my grumpy, old, over-worked tired ass and my desire to fulfill the promise I made to uber cool gypsy vintage chick Lissa Butcher to show up at Release the Bats for her man's band's debut (did I mention how much I love love love Lissa? Yes I do!). I don't know why I struggle every time. I suppose the stark difference  between day-time work-o-holic and nite-time club-going camera fiend takes some transitioning. By Friday I'm usually so tired that making me do anything that requires moving is quite a feat. And yet, once a month, I pull myself out of my work-day-coma, like a zombie, and head to the Que Sera in Long Beach for another session of Release the Bats which, by the way, never ever disappoints. By the time I am driving home around 2am in the morning, I'm singing and grinning and really happy that I had went. 

But to get back on track, this was to be the debut of White Chapel Fiends - a band who had previously only played at parties and in garages in the wild deserty planes of Temecula, California. This was their first live venue and in the circles that these fellas run in, Release the Bats is legendary and thusly, it was an understatement to say the pressure was on. For better or worse, the Release the Bats crowd was already endeared to one of the band members - Ethan Graveworm - who had started haunting deathrock events early on despite the horribly long drive from Temecula. I met him through Krissy when he was just a pup and pre-mohawky (and oh they'll probably kill me for posting this photo but I'm going to do it anyway). He had a habit of desiging his own super cool tshirts and his knowledge of old school bands was always impressive. When Ethan finally turned 21, he waltzed into Release the Bats with a tall mohawk that sent a shiver of envy out across the dance floor and we haven't got rid of him since. He's also managed to charm and steal the heart of our beloved Lissa. They're such a match it's almost scary. So back to that better or worse part -- we all knew Ethan -- and that could work the pressure either way for him. 

Having arrived at the venue I found Lissa and Ethan outside, both estatic that I made it along with a guy who was carrying a serious looking camera heaved up on his shoulders and proped against his waist. Ethan explained it was a friend of theirs who's in film school and that he was here to capture tonight in all its glory. No pressure. No. Certainly not. And later the bass player came around and Ethan informed me that the jogging pants he was wearing were only fleeting things and that, undoubtedly, he would strip down to his boxers on stage becasue well, he always does that sort of thing. The only regret Ethan communicated was that they had not figured out a way to rig up firecrackers to his pants so that there would be a pyro show when they were ripped off. 

Inside it was an eye-candy feast of Bats' regulars all made-up and pretty for the night. Jenn and Dave were makin' a killing on their Killer Pins and their limited Release the Bats Tshirts (their site now takes PayPal - hint hint). I joined Shane, the ever talented Erika and Lissa at the table salivating over a fresh crop of must-have pins (Bats Against Bush wins for the best new pin - hands down). Before you know it I had 10 new pins and a Release the Bats tshirt. 

As the night wore on, I watched the boys drink more and more. I asked Ethan if he was nervous and he shrugged it off with a manly "nah" and then said, "that's why I'm drinkin'!" Close to midnight Ethan decided he'd better round everyone up and reportedly had to go across the street to the gas station to snatch their vocalist who was "probably guzzling some more cheap beer."  Oh, I thought, this is gonna be good. 

At midnight the master of house, Dave Skott, took the stage in his best Alien Sex Fiend costume and introduced the band. I can't remember if he mentioned that this was the band's first real gig but enough of the crowd knew so that the shouts and claps seemed extra generous as to encourage them.  One of the best things about Bats is that they love seeing one of their own succeed and no matter what might go down on stage that night, the band would be cheered on. 

They started out normally enough - without fanfare - just a simple bouncy bass line followed by drums and guitar that pushed out a cool but poised instrumental through the speakers. However, what followed after was nothing short of a train wreck - and I say that in the most loving, most positive way. The vocalist - Mat - took the stage rather on que for their first song and then proceeded to belt out half-shouted half-sung lyrics about a half beat behind the rest of the band. He made no eye-contact with the crowd. Some times he had the mic up to mouth, some times he didn't. We were left to guess what some of the lyrics might have been. He was stumbling around the stage, rather disengaged and off in his own world. He was - it appeared to be - completely plastered which was somehow endearing seeing as how this was their first gig. The opening song ended and the crowd roared with delight! We all knew it was going to be completely out of hand from here on out. Having finally noticed the crowd in front of him, Mat managed to mutter "fuck you!" and earned himself another round of applause from the crowd as well as a few friendly "fuck you"s back.  He seemed to become more aware as the set continued and his timing got better. He demaned "more alcohol!" inbetween the next set of songs and slowly but surely, his hostile demeanor wore off and he became a more conscious front man and even began postering for the crowd. I don't know if we were witnessing something new (a lead man in the making) or if it just takes him time to warm up. Whatever it was, he got better by the minute. 

All the while Mr. Harly Hangman on bass (aka ye of rip-away-jogging pants), was putting on a wonderful show -- if only we could hear him playing. Seemingly not as trashed as his bandmates, Mr. Hangman encountered Murphy's Law which insisted that his bass cord have a most frustrating short in it. If he stayed perfectly still he was fine but dare he turn this way or that and it would zapp and zing and short out all together leaving Mat wailing and Ethan - the every constant drumming machine - continuing on despite the fact. He'd wiggle it and jiggle it (the cord you perves, the cord!) and it would come back on only for a tease or two before zapping back out again. Dave Skott and Jeremy both made visits to the stage during this song and tried to help the poor lad out. Inbetween Mat's pleas for more alcohol, Mr. Hangman was apologizing profusely for his absent bass. 

Meanwhile, Alfred (simply Alfred), is stone faced and completely serious on guitar as he turns out one song after another  - indifferent to the mess that's happening around him on stage. There were quite a few times that he pulled my attention away of whatever antics were happening because he can actually play a mean riff or two and had some very promising solos. Similarly, Ethen seemed non-phased on drums even when the bass would drop out time and time again. They both kept right on marching through their set list like troopers and thanks for that because the band might have imploded on itself had they not. 

Sometime during all this I believe the bass cord DID get replaced and we had the priviledge of hearing Mr. Hangman's brilliant bass playing for the last half of their set without electrical interruption. Freed from the confines of equipment malfunctions, it was time to free the pants. Yes indeedy, Mr. Hangman forgot all about whipping those jogging pants off so resident DJ Shane decided to help him out (not that Shane remembers doing this mind you) and before you could say abracadabra, Mr Hangman was shaking his undie-clad rump to the beat of the drum. He got a lot of cat calls and whistles between songs and I remember Lissa yelling "get naked!" at some point. 

Noticing the attention being lofted toward Mr. Hangman and not to be outdone by his bass player, Mat suddenly announced to the crowd in his slurred speech, that "Pants! Pants are overrated!" and at once began unbuckling his belt. We were all a little bit worried about what was to come because Mr. Hangman losing his pants was a planned thing (in a round about way) but Mat, Mat was a surprise. We just hoped he didn't hurt himself in the process and that he had something clean and presentable on underneath his jeans. Off came the pants, off went more cat calls and into another song they lurched, refueled by ... well... by nakedness I suppose.  The songs seemed to get better as they went along - or was it that we were far too distracted to tell by that point? No matter... it was complete riot.

At the end of the set Jeremy and Shane jumped up on stage to give out some freebies while Mat was oddly enough, on his cell phone (still in his boxers) pacing back and forth while Ethan made whoppie with poor Mr Skelleton. At one point they couldn't find somone's pants and Shane was announcing, inbetween giggles, "Has anyone... has anyone seen their pants?"  And as an afterthought added, "If you have 'em, take them home with you!" 

The rest of the night was filled with dancing and drinking and a camera-man with a wide grin having caught it all on film. If you were there that night, you were part of history. The stories will be notorious. 

Dave Grave of Frankenstein was quoted as having said something like "They were sloppy, snotty and utterly glorious".

I couldn't have said it better myself.

see all the photos from this concert here

Release The Bats:

The band doesn't have a web page yet but look for them to start showing up at venues in Southern California where you can purchase this fine demo for a measly $2. 

White Chapel Fiends Are:
Mat Skellington - Lead Vocals
Alfred - Guitar, Vocals
Harly Hangman - Bass, Vocals
Ethan Graveworm - Drums, Vocals