Live review: Voltaire, This Way to the Egress, Hellblinki

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Voltaire, This Way to the Egress, Hellblinki
The Milestone
Sept. 28, 2011

Arriving at the Milestone, I was not expecting what I stumbled upon. Seas of top hats and corsets entered the venue and there was more black clothing, bondage wear and skull-adorned outfits than you would come into contact with hanging out outside of a Hot Topic. Goth kids had taken over, a rare occasion for this place that holds a reputation for its more punk rock roots. I was in a trance of people watching, enjoying every moment and every conversation I stumbled upon — from the latest Dr. Who episodes to taxidermy to the actual anticipated events of the night. I was eavesdropping left and right and one thing was for certain, The Black Unicorn Cabaret Tour was in full swing. The Milestone I've come to love was a completely different atmosphere and I knew I was in for an interesting night full of sexually enticing burlesque along with music I've come to adore along and some I had yet to discover.

Hellblinki is an old favorite of mine that I have made a point to catch every time they've ventured here from Asheville. Opening the festivities, just as freaky as ever, their music titillated our senses, creating exposition and introducing us to the genre of the night through their original version of it. Their inclusion of expressive facial theatrics while playing were, as per usual, prominent from the beginning. Andrew, their drummer/guitarist/vocalist, exemplified this to the extreme with curled lips and sinister grins as he belted his heart out throughout every song he was a part of. Not only was their stage presence worth nothing, the members of Hellblinki are truly talented musicians who make a point to express their versatility in every set. Each band member plays more than one instrument, most times simultaneously, making it hard to fixate on one particular musical layer because there is so much going on at once, all melded together in a beautifully, eerie and catchy package. As if Hellblinki by themselves was not enough, a lovely lady by the name of Queen April joined them for “Tango” and “Indelicate” accentuating the music through burlesque expression, first involving a fake head on a stick to tango with and secondly a fan dance that made us all curl our toes as she stripped down to nearly nude.

As we all caught our breath from the heightened sexual tension in the room, This Way to the Egress began their set with their female vocalist/pianist fanning small bits of paper into the audience, mimicking snow to accentuate a light, entrancing intro. After the snow had dissipated, she took her place at her keys to add to the melodies of accordion, saw and tuba on top of trippy drumming. While they were a lighter version of this genre, they began to progress towards to climax of the night, getting the audience moving to their body swinging beats and overall organic feel. While each vocalist is enjoyable solo, the harmonies they create as a duo express the more intricate parts of their voices creating an intense captivation with each line. Partially into the set, accordion switched to cello, adding to the cadaverous, stomping notes being projected towards us all, along with the heavy incorporation of wind chimes and saw during their down-tempo scores, bringing us to mystical place. Queen April returned to the forefront to dance to a song which seemingly represented the story of a lush, stumbling around and taking off her clothes. Seeming as if the room wasn't turned on enough, she brought the heat up a bit more while creatively portraying the stories hidden within the song, and of course, stripping in a lady-like manner.

Finally, we had reached the climax of the night. Voltaire took the stage and immediately jeopardized the attention of the entire venue. Between his jokes and songs, he was absolutely hilarious. With catchy, children-like songs about the Devil and fornication among other risqué topics, he had the capability to make you laugh, blush and dance along simultaneously. His back-up band consisted of members from the others on tour with him and they delicately complemented his vocals and acoustic guitar. With all the excitement, it became an unusual scene in the big room of the Milestone. The sea of top hats and corsets began letting out all of their adoration, singing along and dancing their hearts out, reaching an all time high during “Brains,” his song that was used for the theme of the Grimm Adventures of Billy and Mandy. Funny enough, Voltaire's music seems a contemporary reminiscent of Grimm's Fairy Tales with dark, sexual themes but in a sing-song manner. I believe the best description I heard during the night was “Sesame Street for Gothic Kids.” It was a wonderfully perverted version of something we would've listened to when we were five. And not only was the music giving this vibe but Voltaire's banter between songs can be held up in comparison. While slightly more perverse, he talked about masturbating to the audience later among other sexually charged jokes as if were talking to children. I've got to give it to him, he is sheer entertainment in one dark package.

Halfway into the set, Cherry Von Bomb took the front of the stage and banged out a skit and dance to the song, “Zombie Prostitute.” In that moment, it seemed everyone had reached the realization that Ms. Von Bomb may be the most talented burlesque performer in Charlotte. When she danced, she used muscles and shook in a way that I have never seen before while adorably stripping down, starting with gloves and stockings to nothing but a bottom and pasties. She is truly tantalizing and quirky and she exceptionally animated the lyrical content while making us all fan ourselves to sway tangible enticement.

Voltaire played several more songs and kept us all intrigued until the end of the night. He was an interesting and stimulating way to cap off the Black Unicorn Cabaret. Although at some points it was slightly uncomfortable to be somewhere I have been a thousand times before and having it be a completely different vibe, it goes to show the strength of the tour concept. The entire night was intriguing and fun and overall, a success for both performances and turnout. Although they are obviously not coming back through Charlotte, if you have the opportunity to catch this spectacle of a trio of bands and performances, I highly recommend you take the trip. Otherwise, search the web and see what I'm talking about, even if it isn't your cup of tea, these three acts are definitely worth checking out.

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