You probably remember Stabbing Westward for their radio-friendly hits “What Do I Have to Do” and “Save Yourself”. If you’re like me you may have embarrassingly struggled with the lyrics to the MTV classic “Shame” (“how can I have sex without you” or “obsess without you” or “exist without you”). Unlike many of their predecessors, they called it quits at the right time. They broke up in 2002. The music industry had shifted, R&B was taking over the charts and it was unlikely they would find that kind of success again. The breakup wasn’t much of a surprise to casual listeners like me. The band announced they would reunite for only 2 shows to celebrate their 30th anniversary and Philly’s own Trocadero Theater was lucky enough to house one of them. The show would be part of the annual Halloween bash “Dracula’s Ball”. Unsurprisingly, the show sold out which leads one to believe the band is leaving a lot of cash on the table by not doing a full tour.
The line to the venue was full with over-the-top Halloween costumes. I honestly can’t fathom how so many people wore giant wigs or gas masks the entire time but major props to them for their dedication. As I walked into the bar area I was greeted with “Once in a Lifetime” by Wolfsheim, a classic from my youth spent dancing at Goth nights. The DJ spun a set of familiar songs, as the pit filled with enthusiastic fans that danced along.
Mythic folk quartet Ashagal hit the stage at around 9:45pm. Upon first inspection, I thought they may be similar to the bizarre yet beautiful band Rasputina, who I was a fan of in High School. But Ashagal seemed more serious with their “faerie tale” tribal sounds that reminded me of something you might hear at Epcot Center. I kept picturing a young woman with a long gown and corset frolicking through a prairie. To be honest, I would’ve preferred if the DJ kept spinning my industrial goth favorites, but maybe Ashagal just isn’t for me.
By the time Stabbing Westward hit the stage the venue was completely packed. I was excited to finally see the band that I had enjoyed in the 90s, but the first thing I noticed was issues with the sound. The guitars were too low and singer Christopher Hall seemed to have trouble with his microphone. These may just be effects of a band that has only played one other show together in 14 years. The ball had a second DJ spinning in the back balcony bar which was distracting between Stabbing Westwards songs. Despite some feedback issues, Hall’s voice was perfection and the band played hit after hit as the venue bobbed and danced along. Hall, who was accessible and funny, introduced each song with “this is a love song” with the exception of the snarling “The Thing I Hate” which he introduced as “this is NOT a love song”. The only song left off the bustling set list that I hoped to hear was probably “Sometimes It Hurts”. Check out the full set list below.
So Far Away
The Thing I Hate
What Do I Have to Do?
Waking Up Beside You
Violent Mood Swings