Oh hell yeah, another date inside of Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare featuring some fine musical moments by The Dickies, TSOL, and The Vandals on Saturday Oct 18th. I headed over to the Fairplex in Pomona a little early so I could be granted a peek inside the haunted mazes. One major bummer though even on a Saturday hit some of the inescapable Los Angeles traffic on my way. When I made it I was still lucky enough to get escorted through the hallowed chambers of manufactured hell with a group of other photographers.
As I was about to enter I realized that even though I would have company on this visit I was still a little scared to enter the maze. My first trip on a scale from 1-10 (with 1 being watching bunnies romping in a field of buttercups, and 10 being your going to almost crap your pants and have bad dreams about this later) was a very solid 10+. I braced myself for what would turn out to be a hard 9 on my fright scale. The haunts don’t allow any photography and even for those who are lucky enough to get credentials we were only allowed to capture moments from certain selected rooms along the rout of the labyrinth.
Again I skipped the first set of rooms –Lords Of Salem Total Black Out (I still haven’t experienced it), there’s nothing to photograph since it’s all in complete darkness. I did snap a few shots of the entry way and the tortured little gothic doll who stood at the gates greeting visitors with her syncopated snaps and spasms. We made our way onto the lunacy of The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto 3D where among the swirling mix of popping dayglow wander go-go-dancers, hysterical beasts, and the star of the joint, lucha El Superbeasto himself. In 3D this character with his brash bravado and painted on “shit-eating-grin” seems like he was freshly poured off the animation cell and into real life. We were allowed to snap a few shots of him when he appeared in his bar scene. He was more than happy to pose for us for a moment. We continued on through the maze with our 3D glasses on with only one other photo opp dodging obstacles and actors in a frenzy of melted-hyper-realized, psycho-mind-bend.
Next I braced myself to go back into Haunt of 1,000 Corpses. I wasn’t convinced that I really wanted to go back in there again. Before you enter one of the actors working the haunt will ask you if you agree to be touched. They give you a warning as to what might happen to you if you agree to have a bloody mark painted on your forehead. The first time I went through the guy said he’d have to eat my face. On this night the crazed actor had an entire list of sick delights the insane creatures inside might subject you to. You may have guessed already I declined this both times. Trust me it’s still going to scare you, and I don’t want to think about what they’d do if you allow them to touch you.
View my photos from the atmosphere of the event here.
Built of connected chambers that showcase various themes from the film this maze is host to an endless cast of meandering mad-men that greet you with a startle, eyes fixed on you as if you’re the entree at a feast, all the while delighting in your fright with grotesque witless snarls masquerading as smiles. As we wound through, bumping into the resident collection of blacked souls and schizoid psychopaths one of the people in the group with me actually asked me if I was scared. I replied emphatically “Yes!”, He may not have realized I caught him flinch a moment before. We sank deeper into the dark, dank, and rancid cavity of depravity with two scheduled stops. When we hit the room featuring the gnarly stench, I noticed that they had the good graces to make the rooms after a bit more pleasant so you could move on from the order. On my first pass, I had that sent in my nostrils for hours after. Then a few more passes of raving demented scenes layered densely with careful details to complete each story or mood. As I arrived at Captain Spaulding’s Gift Shop, I was relieved to be released from the madness. I don’t think of myself as one who is easily scared, but this place really creeps me out.
After a brisk walk down the pathway separating the haunts and the stage with a few spooks here or there rattling me as I passed them by.When I got to the room where the stage was I pretty much missed the first band of the night, but still got to see the three listed on the bill. The Dickies came out and (in my opinion) stole the show for the night. Seminal figures in the L. A. punk scene this band is known for the humor they inject into their songs and performance. Inspired by B-movies and pop-culture this band knows how to have fun with the absurde world around them. Singer Leonard Graves Phillips owned the stage. They played a great set with songs like “Killer Klowns From Outer Space”, “If Stuart Could Talk “ going into a cover of Pink Floyd’s “See Me Hear Me“, and the cartoon theme song “Gigantor”. They also performed a cover of the Moody Blues tune “Nights In White Satin” and Sabbath’s “Paranoid” become almost different songs by the time they put their spin on them. This is a thoroughly enjoyable band to catch in action.
View The Dickies photo gallery here.
TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty) performed next. They are another legendary Southern Californian punk institution. This band formed back in 1980 and can still deliver the hard-core punk they have always been known for. This politically-minded, opinionated, and super-charged Frontman Jack Grisham appeared on stage all decked out in black and white skirt with his signature blazer and a pale ghostly face (ala “punk-gothic-geisha”). He undertakes the stage on some sort of mission, pacing the entire span of the stage in a determined speed-walk/single-man-mosh. When in the photo pit capturing him was akin to killing a fly in your living room. The band really gives it 100% and the crowd gave back in kind busting into an ever expanding and contracting circle in the pit. Don’t let the skirt fool you this band is still a sonic spit in your face with songs like “World War III”, “Code Blue”, and “Abolish Government/Silent Majority” they owned the room for this moment in time.
View my TSOL photo gallery here.
The final act of the night were The Vandal’s who coincidentally I saw perform at another event that TSOL also played at earlier in the year. While playing robust energetic punk anthems this cocky quartet pulls off cheeky maneuvers with the feel of a circus side-show act. They are pure fun to watch. They whipped the moshing crowd into an immediate frenzy starting off with the high-velocity, bass-drum heavy bedlam “it’s a fact” that roars up sounding not unlike the theme to George of the Jungle. Their wise-ass behavior and tumultuous tunes had the pit (which was nearly the entire room) rabidly foaming at the mouth. I even got caught up in a moment later in the set when I took my camera in at the edge of the mosh pit at less volatile moments to see if I could capture the moment, only to realize that before I knew it it was out of control and me and my camera were not safe. I backed off to a corner near the edge of the sage and enjoyed the rest of the set. The band also played “People that are going to Hell”, “Pat Brown”, and the hilarious mullet mosher “I’ve got an Ape Drape”.
View The Vandals photo gallery here.
Through fear and folly a good time was had by all. What makes this event stand out from the pack of other haunts is the dedication to bringing the visitors a range of experiences, thrills, sights and sounds. In my mind what I took away from this is the sense of sonic textures that dazzled me. From the grinding skuttle of startling monsters in free-wheeling slides towards me. The sounds of other visitors screams, as they encountered gruesome creeps. The collection booms, bangs, and scrapes within the haunts. The dull echoes of subtle voices steadied with a deliberate chill while taunting you. The chase through the Bloody Boulevard by chainsaw wielding madmen. And most of all the varied and wide landscape of music that filled the sanctuary safe from all imagined harm.