The dramatic and weird elements of the Arrival

by Jordan Green

The living dead and the dying living are all the same, cut from the same cloth. But disposing of dead people is a public service, whereas you’re in all sorts of trouble if you kill someone while they’re still alive.

– quote from the 1994 Italian horror movie Dellamorte Dellamore scrawled on a large pen-drawn comic book-style mural at Somewhere Else Tavern

The band is called the Arrival. The guitar player grew up steeped in the music of his dad’s Southern rock band. The singer pursued an acting career from the age of six months. They’re kind of weird. Show people and consummate professionals. Yet edgy and brimming with unbounded energy. Always seeking the party and ready to sleep on floors, to play for gas money and beer. Whatever it takes to pursue the dream.

They named their self-released CD ‘— a bracing collection of power punk gems that synthesizes Joan Jett and Green Day ‘— Just Another Freak In the Freak Kingdom, and dedicated it to the gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

Donnie Neas, a good-humored fellow wearing a blue service station jacket, stubbly beard and black eyeliner under wire-rimmed glasses, strides into the noisy rock and beer establishment Burley Hayes runs out on the far reaches of West Friendly Avenue lugging the flat case that sheaths his guitar. Behind him comes Christy Johnson, the singer, pig tails held back by a black bandanna and dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the word ‘“Wicked.’”

‘“You need to move the van. Now,’” she tells Donnie. ‘“Somebody needs to get out.’”

The task falls instead to Steve Lucas, a hulking bass player and specimen of glam beefcake whose spiky black hair and heavy black eyeliner makes him an unsettling counterweight to Neas.

Around 9 p.m. they take the stage at Somewhere Else Tavern for their sound-check. Johnson sheds her hoodie and headband, and Neas his jacket. They don’t go halfway with style, this band. Johnson wears a halter top and low-cut black jeans clasped at the waist with a pair of handcuffs. She periodically swigs water from a canteen stashed near the drum set.

‘“Hit the lights, let’s get it dark,’” Neas orders, his voice edged with a jagged current of excitement. ‘“So this is what you guys have been waiting for.’” He laughs.

The drummer, Billy Thompson, drives forward the first song, Lita Ford’s lurching paean to unruly living called ‘“Kiss Me Deadly.’”

‘“I went to a party last Saturday night,’” Johnson sings, full of tease and brattiness. ‘“I didn’t get laid, but I got in a fight uh huh, it ain’t no big thing.’” Then into the chorus: ‘“Kiss me once, kiss me twice, kiss me deadly.’”

On many of the songs Neas coaxes chunky bar chords from his axe complete with slide, muted fretting and harmonic dissonance. Lucas’ bass locks into the groove, a rumbling behemoth.

Johnson struts around the stage, thrusting her tongue at the audience with a mischievous glint in her eyes. She’ll alternate between standing at attention with military stiffness, loosing karate kicks and pogoing.

Johnson is a national Junior Olympic gold medalist in karate and speed skating, two of the raft of talents she puts to good use as the front woman of the Arrival. As an actor signed to Marilyn’s Professional Model & Talent Agency in Greensboro she plays a ghoul named Dotty in Wes Craven’s Mortuary ‘—’ he, the famed horror auteur behind Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist. The movie is set to open in theaters across California’s Central Valley on Jan. 13.

She’s also had a speaking part as a teen gas station patron in ‘“We Card,’” a training video produced by the Coalition for Responsible Tobacco Retailing.

Johnson is evasive when asked to give her age.

‘“We say we’re old enough to get smashed,’” she says. ‘“I’m an actress. I play anything from 18 to 27.’” She adds: ‘“I usually play really strong, intelligent characters. Seductive characters. Sultry might describe me better.’”

In early 2005 Johnson persuade her boyfriend to start playing the guitar again. Neas had been on a five-year hiatus after playing in various metal bands and sitting in occasionally with his father’s Southern rock outfit, the Steel Breeze Band.

‘“Christy was pushing me to pick up my guitar,’” says Neas, who is 25. ‘“I always wanted to be in a band with a female singer.’”

The two sat down and wrote some songs together. In February 2005 they took an acoustic guitar over to the home of Burley Hayes, who owns Somewhere Else Tavern.

‘“We went over to Burley’s house and played some acoustic songs,’” Neas says. ‘“He said, ‘Here’s the kicker: you’ve got a gig.’ We kind of got shoved into it.’”

As Johnson remembers it, ‘“He said, ‘I’ve got to get you on this WinterFest, so you’ve got to come up with a name.’ We thought it would be even better if we came up with a full band.’”

They recruited a drummer and bass player who served through August, when Lucas and Thompson took over the rhythm section. Johnson and Neas share the songwriting duties.

‘“It’s angry and melodic,’” Neas says. ‘“Most punk has something to say. We write about whatever moves us, whether it’s a friend struggling with a drug addiction or an old relationship going bad, and kind of sticking it to them.’”

They’ve toured Florida, and are starting to make inroads throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. Places like New Bern and Fayetteville. Rock Hill, SC.

Neas sits on a bench in the back of Somewhere Else watching a pool table. The next show will be in Danville, Va., and Neas is looking for fellow travelers. Some of the throng have shared stages with the Arrival, lugged equipment onstage or just went along for the party.

‘“Anytime we play out of town we normally make an announcement from the stage,’” Neas says. ‘“We stay with the club owner or a bouncer. I think eight people will fit in the van.’” Then he adds: ‘“If you want to go, let’s ride. It’s always a party. The more people the better.’”

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