Band defies its dream-killer

by Jordan Green

Christy Johnson, a comic-book character of danger and sexual allure sprung to life, performed with her band Dreamkiller, singing without electric amplification in a corner of the Hot Topic store in Winston-Salem’s Hanes Mall on a recent Thursday afternoon next to a rack of brightly colored blouses. With Tian Garcia playing an amplified acoustic guitar and Erny Galvan playing a bass, Johnson belted out a passion play of thematically linked songs about protagonist Lyrik and her pursuit of her dream in a futuristic metropolis studded with both adversity and possibility and her nemesis, the Dreamkiller, who tempts, frustrates and traffics in various masks and guises. Johnson moved her hands in dramatic gesture, dominating the space in her black leather pants, black T-shirt inscribed with the words “rock and roll star,” heavy eyeliner and brown hair highlighted with locks of blond and fuscia. David Lanning, who was staffing the merch table near the store entrance, remarked that “Christy should be sponsored by Hot Topic. Everything she gets is from here. Everybody asks where she gets it.” Hot Topic is the outfitter of choice for legions of high-school rock kids that identifies with the dangerous, goth side of rock and roll. If you’ve ever seen a kid with a studded belt, impossibly tight-fitting designer jeans or a Darth Vader belt buckle, chances are they purchased it at Hot Topic. The band finished its first set at about 4:20 and took a break. “It’s hotter than our stage shows,” Galvan remarked. Johnson agreed: “Schweaty.” It was the third of seven Hot Topic instore performances across the state. They had played Greenville on Monday and Cary on Tuesday. On the following Monday, it was on to Four Seasons Town Centre in Greensboro, then to Durham, Wilmington and Fayetteville. Lanning had been sidelined. “We had him playing a hand drum at the other performances,” Johnson said. “But they were complaining at GNC. They told us, ‘Don’t play any louder than the recording’ — they were playing our music. I said, ‘I’m talking louder than this recording.’ A lot of people want to bring it down when they play acoustic. I’m totally opposite. I’ve got to do it with a lot of energy. I guess it’s my background in theater.” Johnson has had this band going in one incarnation or another since 2004 and claims to have had a rotating cast of about 25 players. In January the current lineup started playing together. Johnson has finally found a group of enthusiastic coconspirators willing to flesh out a concept in lyric, sound and set design. In Garcia, a Guatemalan immigrant who serves as musical pastor at Church of His Glory in Greensboro, Johnson has found a fellow songwriter and a producer. She praises all three guys as dedicated musicians and professionals. Galvan is originally from California, and remarked that he came to North Carolina “running from the law.” “What?” Johnson said. “This is all news to us.” Apparently, the meeting through Myspace was as fortuitous for Galvan as it was for Johnson. “I played in a lot of cover bands,” Galvan said. “I was getting tired of that. It’s been a blast playing with these guys. I was actually thinking of moving back to California before I found them.” The band’s first CD, Sleepless Dreams, has been pressed and mastered, although the band has yet to choose a date to hold a release party. They recently played a wellreceived set at the Vans Warped tour stop in Virginia Beach. Johnson and her fellow band members are feeling positive about their prospects, having been nominated

Best RockBand for the Just Not Famous Enough showcase in Greensboro and in twocategories in the upcoming Carolina Music Awards showcase in Raleigh. Thealbum is studded with monologues interspersed between songs. One inparticular expresses the outlook of Lyrik. “I always believed indestiny, but now I’m clouded in confusion,” Johnson intones. “If I’mwrong about you, how can I trust that I’m on the right path and that mydreams aren’t the same silly joke? What am I doing? Why is it thatevery time I feel I’m about to get there it’s always a step away? Am Itrying to grasp the wind? Am I trying to walk on fire and not getburned? This is the crossroads of life I’ve chosen… but now what pathshould I take?” Johnson reflected after her in-store performance atHanes Mall: “Because of my music and theater base, I was alwaysinterested in doing this. It’s a lot of fun to get to play differentcharacters. There are narratives between the songs. I get to fuse musicwith acting — the two things I love the most.”

Dreamkillerperforms with the Tiffany Shea Band at Somewhere Else Tavern, at 5713W. Friendly Ave. in Greensboro, on Aug. 21, and at Rush FitnessComplex- Brassfield in Greensboro on Aug. 22.

Christy Johnson and Dreamkiller (Erny Galvan, left, and Tian Garcia,right) rock the Hot Topic at the Hanes Mall while ably modeling thestore’s clothes. (photo by Jordan Green)