October is hands down my favorite time of the year. Anybody who knows me, knows I spend the month trying to do all the things. From shows to parties and anything in between, I am down for anything that gives me a chance to celebrate the season. I’ve done everything from working at a haunted house, to attending horror themed weddings and witchy parties, to Rocky Horror screenings, you name it! Needless to say, when given the opportunity to attend a live performance by my favorite psychobilly band, The Nekromantix, I was more than happy to squeeze that into my calendar of festivities! Work nights be damned, Kim Nekroman would be in the city with that coffin bass and there was no way I was going to miss it!
Voltage Lounge is a small little club that’s probably one of the city’s best kept secrets, so much so that my Uber driver commented on how he had never even driven anyone there. The club sits nestled between the building that is home to Philadelphia’s School of Rock and The Electric Factory, which is where I first saw The Nekromantix perform years ago as an opener for Rob Zombie. Small but mighty, it provided just the right amount of space for an intimate show while still leaving room to cut it up in the pit. Over the past 5 years, the space has transformed from a dive bar to one of the best places in the city to catch local and traveling bands.
On this particular Tuesday evening Voltage hosted a triple threat of musical triads, all of which boasted the beautiful sounds of the standing double bass. Some would say this instrument is a key element for any rockabilly or psychobilly band and quite honestly, I wouldn’t argue with them if they did. My love of this instrument goes back to one of my favorite cartoons as a kid, Tom and Jerry. In one of my favorite episodes you see Tom attack the bass as he serenades his feline love interest, all while subjecting poor Jerry to every thumping note as he meows, “Is you is, or is you ain’t ma baby?”. Combined with a love for horror, my affinity for Kim Nekroman and his coffin bass made me a fan of the Denmark natives.
To open the show, we were treated to Philly locals, The Rectors. Their frontman, Buddy Mercury, had a great stage presence. This teacher by day, rockstar by night with an adorable laugh had a vintage style that gave him a Buddy Holly like energy. Juxtaposed to this snarky professor, was the silent but deadly Eliza Rector. Playing a bass that was literally taller than her, much like the venue, she was small and mighty! They played a mix of originals and Patsy Cline covers. One of them was more of a Tammy Wynette/Patsy Cline mashup, but one of their best songs was an original titled “Take You To Church.” They were genuinely excited to be opening for The Nekromantix and even more excited to see that a good number of people had come out to show love to the opening bands. Despite Mercury’s playful trash talking about the band’s abilities and the Philly psychobilly scene in general, it was clear they were not only talented but a band definitely worth seeing live. One of the best parts about shows like this is discovering some great local band like The Rectors, a band that I will absolutely be making it out to see again in the future.
Next up on the lineup were The Brains, a Canadian based band from Montreal led by Rene D La Muerte. While you could hear the surf and country influences in The Rectors sound, The Brains brought more of a hardcore edge to the stage. The rock influences were clear. The guttural screams from Colin the Dead on bass peppered their sound and the fast paced hard hitting drum skills of Phil the Beast, set a tone full of intensity that created the perfect sound to get the pit started. As more people were arriving at the show, the floor quickly filled up with a diverse crowd of punked out greasers ranging in shade, shape, and size and clearly ready to rock out. The Brains went hard on a range of songs and the crowd went even harder, stomping along with every slap of the bass. The flow of the lineup was perfect, and we were being warmed up for the main event that was quite surprisingly staying pretty close to schedule.
It wasn’t long after The Brains worked the crowd up and exited the stage that a band founded in 1989 and still rocking today, came out to give us all what we had been waiting for. While two of the three positions in the band have changed dozens of times over the years, Kim Nekroman remains the heart and soul of this horror themed hard hitting band with more than ten studio albums under its belt. However, that doesn’t mean that guitarist Francisco Mesa and drummer Adam Guerrero don’t bring tons of talent to the table as well. Two songs into their set, Nekroman had some issues with his coffinbass and motioned to his bandmates to keep it going while he attended to the problem. What should’ve been a quick fix took a hot minute but Mesa and Guerrero made sure we didn’t miss a beat as they kept the beats rolling until their infamous frontman returned. Jumping right back into it, The Nekromantix treated us to some of their greatest hits including “Ghoulina,” “Gargoyles Over Copenhagen,” and “Alice in Psycholand.” Nekroman showed off his amazing skills on the coffinbass, often holding it like a regular guitar or resting it on the floor as he sat on top, never missing a beat. Between his gravity defying signature pomp, his deep old school crooner style vocals, and his ability to toss that big ol’ coffin bass around like it was made of air, the man is definitely the subject of many a Kitten’s dream. Sigh.
Diving into some of their slower paced sounds they performed “Subcultural Girl” and “Haunted Cathouse.” It was the perfect way to have the mosh pit’s heavy hitters make some room for a little swing dancing. Earlier in the evening The Rectors had noticed a young member of the crowd there with his mom and gave him a little nod and we all welcomed a new generation into our weird little subcultural world. A few fans took the opportunity to grab him by the hand and get him into the swing of things. The vibe of this show was a far cry from what I have experienced at similar shows. I don’t know if it’s the specific niche of psychobilly but this crowd was not only more diverse but had more of a friendly fanboy type of vibe where we were all just excited to be around fellow geeks or in this case, freaks, and just let go while enjoying some really good live musicians.