We Need a Gimmick | Music | Salt Lake City Weekly
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We Need a Gimmick

Let's talk oddball acts—because different is good.


  • Paul Koudounaris

Salt Lake City is about to be blessed with another visit by the Black Sabbath/McDonald's tribute band Mac Sabbath. This time, they're bringing Star Wars-themed metal band Galactic Empire. We've already written about the fast-food-themed heavy metal quartet ("May I Speak to the Manager?," City Weekly, June 15, 2016), and there's only so much you can say about the Empire, which is that they play metallic covers of John Williams' SW scores while dressed as Darth Vader, Boba Fett, a Stormtrooper and a couple of—I dunno, Siths? So instead, let City Weekly enrich your lives with a list of other acts who serve their tunes with special sauce.

Jon Wayne: This band of mystery men's biggest exposure was having a song ("Texas Funeral") in the 1995 Rodriguez-Tarantino film From Dusk Till Dawn. But some Salt Lakers might recall hearing this Texas band's herky-jerky jam "Mr. Egyptian" on X96 in the '90s. You might've blanched at the ostensible racism in the tune, but it's actually a send-up of stereotypical, backward, bovine, willfully ignorant, truck 'n' twang-lovin' Texans. In fact, that's their whole thing. Texas Funeral is on Amazon and Spotify, but you should dig up their harder-to-find second album, Two Graduated Jiggers.

Buzz King: In "Talkin' Seattle Grunge Blues," Todd Snider jokes about a band getting big by using silence as a gimmick—"music's original alternative"—before another band came along that "wasn't even together." Buzz King was meant to exist for no more than an afternoon in 2003, when its members convened to write and record I Shave my Pussy (aka I'm Truly Sorry). The purportedly all-improv album is remarkably decent, with laconic jangle-pop tunes like the title track, "Hot Dogs Is Good" and "Hollywood is for Assholes." They wound up playing a few shows, but ultimately faded away.

Snowmen: The 1970s shock-glam act Kiss was definitely onto something, so it's only natural that somebody would try to borrow from or build upon their shtick. Coming out of Erie, Pa., in 1977, this hard rock/power-pop act wore white clothes, makeup and wigs. Even their amps, instruments, sets and—just speculatin' here—cocaine were white. Maybe Trump should've asked these guys to play the inauguration. It would've really energized his (free)base.

Clownvis Presley: He's a little bit clown, a little bit king of rock 'n' roll—and a little bit Bible historian on "Jesus Christ Eatin' on a Chicken Wing," where he croons about Jesus being "my lord and my savior/ watch him savor the flavor." If you haven't heard the tune, go to YouTube now. Don't let another second of your life pass without this saucy nugget in your life. See also: "Dancing with the Wolfman (In a Non-Gay Way)."

Fratello Metallo: Forget Ghost and their contrived (but still awesome) Black Pope 'n' the Nameless Ghouls act. This Italian metal band is fronted by an honest-to-God Capuchin monk. Father Cesare Bonizzi happened to go to a Metallica concert sometime in the '90s and became enamored by the music's power. While FM's music wasn't necessarily Christian, Bonizzi did evangelize in his lyrics—and opted to flash the "I love you" sign instead of metal horns. The band released 11 albums, but broke up in 2009.

Flipp: In case you haven't already deduced this: Excessive makeup and eccentric costumes automatically qualifies a band as weird. But this Minneapolis band is as good as they are odd, with catchy, snotty, arena-ready hard rock/punk songs to match their Kiss-inspired, four-character, comic-bookish superheroic aesthetic. They even have their own Flipp cereal, which, during one hometown show, they dumped on the crowd from a helicopter. As of 2016, they're back—potentially for a limited time.

Rockbitch: You know how Beavis and Butt-Head got a thrill out of Gwar and Green Jellÿ? It's too bad they never got wind of Rockbitch—a pagan, polyamorous, feminist, sex-positive goth-industrial-prog band from the U.K. that played topless and performed live sex acts onstage. They even had a ritual at shows: The Golden Condom, where the band would toss a rubber into the crowd and whoever caught it, regardless of gender, was taken backstage for a good time with the band. That's one gimmick that's guaranteed to sell tickets. Alas, the band is no longer together.

Space Alien Donald: Is age a gimmick? Sexuality? Being Canadian? How about all of the above? Before he left this planet in 2015, Space Alien Donald proudly called himself the "world's oldest gay Canadian rapper." He didn't actually rap—it was more sing-songy talking—so that's a four-headed gimmick hydra. Ya gotta love that. Especially when he recited the lyrics to Weird Al Yankovic's "I Lost on Jeopardy" or performed S.A.D. originals about (you guessed it) space. But was this gimmick a gimmick? Or was Donald just plain out to lunch (on Mars)?

If you have to ask, you've missed the point. Any of these acts could've played it straight and performed in normal stage attire under a normal name while playing normal songs. Maybe they would've made it. Maybe not. Instead, as oddball acts, they offer something different. No disrespect to Mac Sabbath's parent company but, it's like the great poet R.B. Arby said: "Different is good."