Setting the Stage: As you walk into the Debonair Music Hall in Teaneck, New Jersey, you enter by the side of the stage. There, neatly arranged on a guitar stand are four Fender Telecasters, two Mandolins, and a banjo. One could rightfully assume that tonight’s band is playing Country Music and their assumption would be right … sort of. John 5 is a musical chameleon and to the unsuspecting guitar lover who’s only heard John 5’s “quieter” music, the skull logo hanging behind the drums and inflatable Halloween decorations that adorn the stage would probably have you question, “What have I gotten myself into?”
Taking the Stage: Looking like the lovechild of the Bride of Frankenstein and a mad-scientist, John 5 and his band the Creatures arrive onstage as bassist Ian Ross starts the opening riff to “Season of the Witch”. With Logan Miles Nix on drums, the band blazes through three of their pure-shred numbers, including “This Is My Rifle” and “Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell, CA”. Ross and Hicks provide a rhythm section that operates with machine-like precision, lockstep to the lightning fast guitar runs and then effortlessly shift into the dance groove of “Crank It”.
Making sure that there’s never a dull moment, and never taking themselves too serious, costumed characters emerge on stage at different points in the show. At one point, a pig with a pitchfork menaces the crowd then a robot with a ray gun — all done in the spirit of kitschy sci-fi monster movies from the 1950s.
As guitar-shredding concerts go, John 5’s audience is incredibly eclectic. No doubt, helped by his time with Marilyn Manson and the last 13 years as Rob Zombie’s guitar player, he’s been able to draw in people that may otherwise not find instrumental music appealing. If this night’s crowd is any indication, the cult of John 5 is as unique as a fan-base can get. Within the first three rows stood a family with four (ranging in age from 6-10 years old); a pair of Goth kids decked out in black garb with matching black lipstick; and a single young woman who saw him play a few days earlier in New York City and “had to see him again”. His audience, like his music, can’t easily be explained and lumped into neat parameters.
From songs that mix country and metal (“The Black Grass Plague”) to the soothing “Behind the Nut Love”, the show takes enough sonic detours that you’re never sure what you’re going to hear next. Tying everything together is a medley of iconic guitar riffs, from The Police to Nirvana to Pantera — it’s an ode to everything that is great about the electric guitar.
Along for the six-week trek across North America is Los Angeles’ Dead Girls Academy (metal) and Jared James Nichols (blues rock). The two acts’ styles are completely different, and have little in common with John 5, but somehow it works. Not even trying to pander to the guitar enthusiast, both bands held their own and clearly made some new fans.
John 5 and the Creatures’ current tour continues through an April 14th show in San Diego, California, with a full list of dates here. The guitarist and his band have been rolling out singles from their upcoming album, Invasion, which is due this summer. Following his own tour, John 5 will regroup with Rob Zombie for a North American trek with Marilyn Manson beginning July 9th in Baltimore, Maryland.
Photo Gallery: John 5 and The Creatures in Teaneck, New Jersey (click to enlarge and scroll through):
All photos by Antonio Marino Jr.
Season of the Witch
This Is My Rifle
Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell, CA
Here’s to the Crazy Ones
The Black Grass Plague
Behind the Nut Love
I Am John 5