I had a busy shift at work that day, so I wasn’t planning on dressing up, and it said optional anyway, but when I got in, my girlfriend had transformed herself into a colourful clown, I couldn’t tell if it was sexy or scary but we’d decide on that later, she had gotten me a top hat and a whip, so as a last minute decision I gathered together some of the more eccentric garments in my wardrobe, waistcoat, pocket watch, er, well, they’re eccentric for a punk! Together with the application of some black nail varnish and mascara I was transformed into a ringmaster. And so it was, subject to calls of ‘goth’ from gaggles of street-crawling Neds, we made the fuliginous subway journey to Ivory Black’s…
   Round up! Round up! Come one and all! NHC don’t just put on a gig, we put on a Carnival of Dark Arts, a menagerie of music complete with clowns, circus acts and knife-throwing! “I decided to eat only half the acid at first”, which was a good thing, because upon arrival we were confronted by a phantasmagoria of evil clowns, funny clowns, sinister faces, outlandish dress, demonic masks, joker faces, dark, brooding costumes and Mainy, with a beard looking like something Hemingway might have shot.
   Members of Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are in attendance, as well as members of Girobabies/Twistettes and many other local band legends, plus Mama and Papa Hellfire, the whole Gonzo Division, and even NHC’s official tattooist Doggy has made an appearance. The whole crowd is begirdled by terrifying, nefarious clowns and I think to myself ‘This is not a place for anyone who suffers from coulrophobia! Or anybody on psychedelics for that matter, a drug user can get used to seeing things like his friend vomit live flapping fish onto the bathroom floor before his eyes, or spacetime fold in on itself like origami, but nobody should be asked to handle this scene tripping, the reality is twisted enough’.
  It was a good thing we only ate half because when we got our tickets, had penises drawn on our hands, were fiendishly face-painted, and bundled through like fresh meat, the first thing we saw was a mini Pink Floydian laser show, and experienced the sound of unearthly music drifting to our ears…
   Furthermore, the instruments creating this gloriously familiar (sampling classic video game tunes like Sonic and Zelda as well as a superlative version of the Game Of Thrones theme) yet extraterrestrial sound, was aside from a theremin, a NES (transformed into the head of a ‘laser guitar’), a Gameboy, and a laser harp! I felt like I had walked into the Mos Eisley Cantina. Quickly consulting my Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, it informs me that a laser harp is an ‘electronic musical user interface and laser lighting display, projecting several laser beams — and a musician plays these by blocking them to produce sounds, reminiscent of a harp’. No shit Sherlock!! It produces a trippy effect to say the least, I have seen this act before, at Mugstock, but it still surprised me again with its simple yet powerful genius, well not really simple actually, quite convoluted-seeming really. Check out Theremin Hero live or online for the kind of show you might expect to see aboard an intergalactic spaceship somewhere in the Eagle Nebula of the cosmos.
   If I wasn’t ready for that, then I certainly wasn’t ready for the sphincter-clenching death-defying aptly-named ‘Til Death Do Us Part’ – a real husband and wife knife-throwing act! Not something you see every day at a gig between bands! The suicidal duo thrilled the audience (and the tension in the crowd was palpable) as thunk after thunk of sharpened metal, embedding itself into thick wood mere centimetres from the girl’s flesh, rang out through the room to gasps and oooohs! There was genuine fear in her eyes every time that blade stuck in and vibrated with the impact, and no wonder, I don’t know what possesses anybody to take this risk, but it certainly is entertaining! A huge applause well-deserved (for not dying) and that act was a real case of ‘balls and nerves of steel’, for both the knife-thrower and the woman pinned to the board! Topping it all off with double-edged viking axes no less! Who wouldn’t be impressed!?
   More music was provided by headliners The Courtesans, supported by Wolf Ruby and Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes. The Courtesans are a multicultural female quintet from London consisting of Dutch, Polish, Irish and English members, all strikingly beautiful, but even more striking and pulchritudinous is their music – dark yet radiant, brooding but comforting, melancholy but not depressing, uplifting in fact, atmospheric, and choc full of choppy guitar licks. They describe their influences as “Eroticism, narcissism, insanity, humanism, sexuality, media, violence, society, passion, love, equality…” And that says it all really, and makes them perfect for the carnival. With a wide range of sounds, and an impressionable live show, it is no wonder The Courtesans are renowned by their fans and respected by their peers all over Britain.
   Another all-girl band, Wolf Ruby, in their outlandish demeanour, were as fitting for a Carnival of Dark Arts as anybody could be. Their music, sinister and captivating, with rising choruses and catchy hooks to make you dance and move. The sound is hypnotising, and the set was a mash up of a couple of well-delivered covers with a few good originals. Catchy, kooky and a little crazy, stay tuned for  their debut album which we hope will be coming soon…
   It’s a crime really, that I’ve seen Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes a few times now, and not yet put pen to paper about them, as they are, in my opinion, one of the best live shows around, backed by a sturdy wall of well-accomplished musicians (including NHC’s own Martin McCann on bass) Marius Kliukas (Drums) Daniel Beveridge (Guitar) Sue Macleod (Backing Vocs) Neal Cameron (Saxophone) Darren Paramasivan (Keyboards) and of course, the charismatic, enigmatic, emblematic, achromatically black-garbed frontman Joe Bone.
   I’ve seen everything at a Joe Bone show, from burlesque stripteases mid-show, to scarecrow-mask-wearing-onstage-freak-outs, but the showmanship is backed solidly by Joe’s gritty, acerbic but crooning vocs complimented by Sue’s haunting but serene voice, and the potent, heady music, psycho-edged, dark, gothic, but with a Glaswegian streetsmart twist that gives it a unique flavour, like a vampire drinking Buckfast. All The Dark Vibes’ music is original, but when they do throw in a cover they do it well, as in their brilliant version of Bowie’s ‘Panic In Detroit’ “with added panic”.
   JB&TDV have some real hits in their  live show, ‘Healer Man’, the bass-driven, psychedelic and assertive ‘Testament’ and the nebulous, atmospheric, and spaced-out ‘Mercury Is Just A Planet’ with soothing sax and melodic piano carrying it through. Joe Bone is a raconteur and a showman, but with his band he is producing great music, if you’ve not seen their live show you can remedy this misfortune by attending The Rum Shack on May 13th, where they’ll be joined by the brilliant Trongate Rum Riots! Also available is the excellent debut EP of Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes, ‘Four Shades of Dark’ featuring none other than our friend The Very Rev. D. Wayne Love of Alabama 3! Find that here http://grassrootsrecords.bigcartel.com/product/joe-bone-the-dark-vibes-with-the-very-rev-d-wayne-love
   And now, for the doctor…
“The Carnival of Dark Arts is what the whole world would be doing on Saturday nights if the Nazis had won the war, this is the Sixth Reich. Full of drinking tables, and all manner of Country-Fair/Polish Carnival madness going on in this space, right above the tables the Forty Flying Caritzo Brothers are doing a high-wire trapeze act along with four muzzled wolverines and the Six Nymphet Sisters from San Diego, while Joe Bone & The Dark Vibes and The Courtesans are blasting out good music!”
      ~ Fear & Loathing
   If the Carnival of Dark Arts and NHC showed us anything, it’s that you can have a good gig, where all the bands are paid fairly, any profit goes back to the local music scene, everybody has a great time, and everything runs smoothly, facilitated by the unity of fans and musicians. To miss out on the next Carnival gig would be the actions of an acerebral fool, so look out for that in November. Until then all the aforementioned bands are touring almost constantly and you can keep up to date with that on their respective social medias and follow NHC for all our upcoming gigs too. After the gig, the whole Hellfire crew went back to Gonzo Div. HQ in Ibrox and the night unraveled into madness that we won’t descend into here… And so with that, I guess there’s only one thing left to say… Seeya’ in the pit (or at the next carnival)…
Originally published on NHC Music 19/04/2016