Aux barricades! Bloodjinn triomphe!
The barricade has been erected at Ziggy’s, the Winston-Salem rock club that tonight has been transformed into a lair for thrashing black-clothed goths, menacing-looking skinheads, denim-clad longhairs and their sullen girlfriends.
The barricade serves two purposes, neither of them especially practical.
The first is presumably to keep the crowd from spilling onto the stage, an eight-inch rise from the floor, although that seems to be hardly a problem since the audience is remarkably well behaved. They refrain from climbing over the waist-high metal barrier or running through the unguarded entrance at stage right.
The other is dramatic. A step runs along the inside of the barricade, which serves nicely as a seat for press photographers, but more importantly as a platform from which the singer can safely exhort the crowd French Revolution-style to commit itself more fully to beer drinking, metal mayhem and headbanging.
The stage is set for Bloodjinn, a Greensboro metal band with two full-length recordings under their belt looking for a new label to release a new batch of songs, and also a chance to reclaim the attention of a metal scene that’s gone through some subtle mutations of late.
‘“Tonight we don’t know what it’s gonna be like,’” says singer Joel Collins, who is 27. ‘“We haven’t had an album out since 2002, so it’s almost like we’re a new band.’”
The band’s biography in a nutshell is this: Collins formed the band in 1999 with his brother, who left to devote his energies to a new family. The band recorded an album with the local Tribunal label, then moved up to the Canadian label Goodfellow for their second release, where they stalled, again because of matrimonial distractions, this time on the part of the label’s owner. Old personnel have fallen away. New members have rotated in. The band has toured incessantly east of the Mississippi, and headlined festivals. They’re biding their time before they make their next bid for fame and riches.
‘“We have to go bigger or we’ll fall to pieces,’” Collins says.
He rattles off a list of resources a band like Bloodjinn needs from a label to take their art to the next level: ‘“Major promotion. Tour support. Personal money is good to have, but not all labels do it.’”
‘“Bitches,’” adds rhythm guitar player Trey Richards, who commutes from his home in Roanoke, Va. to play with the band.
‘“That boost of money,’” adds Collins, summing it up.
We chat in the gravel lot beside the white van the band is slowing paying off to Collins’ father. Some of the band members flick gravel at each other as Collins does most of the talking. Later, the others go back in the barn-like music club to set up.
‘“It’s almost like we’re a machine,’” Collins says. ‘“We only practice once a week.’”
Still, they want to improve their game to be ready when their opening comes.
‘“I’m trying to be real energetic ‘— giving the crowd their vibe,’” he says. ‘“I try to move around on stage and get up on the barricade. I try to work the crowd, without being too ridiculous.’”
Tonight, a warm Thursday, they’ve got the opening slot ahead of It Dies Today, a youthful goth-styled band from New York that mixes metal with heart-on-sleeve emo punk. The headlining band, Machine Head, has canceled due to illness so the honors fall to Devil Driver, a Motorhead-inspired California outfit that champions heavy drinking.
Monitoring developments is a friend of the Bloodjinn guys, Conan Godfrey, who lives in Winston.
‘“Metal has changed a lot,’” he says ‘“It’s a lot more passive-aggressive. It’s commingling with other ideals, so people have gotten a lot nicer. The music has gotten a lot better.’”
He also offers these observations: ‘“There are a lot more black shirts than before’” and ‘“I know a lot of Hare Krishnas are into death metal.’”
At a quarter before nine, drummer Brian Lewis yells for Collins. It’s time to play.
The band members file through the opening in the barricade and take their places on the stage. The crowd on the floor, about three deep before the barricade and mostly male, waits with polite interest.
The first song starts with a melodic tinkle from lead guitarist BJ Stevens’ axe ‘— he’s the only one who’s been with Collins from the start ‘— and then erupts into a crushing vortex of metal thunder. Stevens leaps into the air as he runs his fingers up and down the fret board, as if levitated by sheer sonic release. Bass player Brian Culbertson lunges in place. Richards thrashes, legs slightly spread, banging his head as he lays down the crunch. Lewis, whose sculpted, short jet-black hair makes him look like a stray from the punk camp, sneers at the audience and pounds the kit.
And Collins stalks the stage like a young Glen Danzig, unleashing a guttural howl like a beast.
‘“I want to see all your hands in the air,’” he yells as he climbs the barricade. ‘“C’mon. Put ’em up!’”
A heavyset Mexican dude nods sternly, a punker flails his arms as if only restrained from storming the stage by the barricade, and agonized yells materialize from deep in the audience ‘— the expression of some creature that can never quite be satisfied.
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