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The Birthday Massacre & Emilie Autumn
Written by Max Levites & Justin Boyer   
Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Birthday Massacre / Emilie Autumn

 

When Sonic Cathedral writers Max and Justin found out about the co-headlining tour featuring Toronto underground superstars The Birthday Massacre and the one-of-a-kind Emilie Autumn, both jumped at the chance to see what could be one of the most unique shows of the year. Going into the show, Justin was a big Emilie Autumn fan but unfamiliar with The Birthday Massacre, and opposite goes for Max, who loved TBM but had never heard Emilie Autumn. After the show, it’s safe to say that both writers came out all-around impressed by both acts


The Brithday Massacre

 

Nevertheless, the two writers felt it best if they reviewed the set they came to see:

Max - The Birthday Massacre

I’ve been waiting quite a while to see TBM perform, and sadly I missed last year’s Philly gig because I was too busy gallivanting around Europe. But finally, the day had come, and after nearly freezing to death in line for two hours, I made my way inside the TLA for the show. The Birthday Massacre were up first, and they came out to a cheering crowd, guns blazing. I was very excited that they started the set with “Red Stars,” a personal favorite of mine. Chibi was just a ball of energy on stage, hopping around and trying her best to get everyone in the crowd involved and sounding great all the while. The chemistry within the band was electric as they played through what was essentially a career-spanning best-of collection of TBM songs, even managing to hit all my favorites, including “Pins and Needles,” “Kill the Lights,” and “Blue”! The crowd ate it up and I even saw people who I knew had never heard TBM before jumping up and down and having a great time. Even though they played a fairly long, 15-song set, I was sad to see them have to leave the stage. Here’s to hoping they come back soon!

Justin - Emilie Autumn

The Birthday Massacre was surprisingly excellent, and the band was the perfect lead-in for Emilie Autumn’s theatrical set. Having seen Emilie Autumn earlier this year as part of her Fight Like a Girl tour, most of her set remained unchanged for the most part. As expected, Emilie Autumn vocal’s were strong throughout the entire show. Moreover, the show starts with the delightfully brazen Fight Like a Girl. Additionally, the bloody krumpets (Emilie’s highly talented cohorts), including Veronica and newcomer Moth, were excellent as always. Veronica did her tantalizing burlesque routine, and Moth even had her own solo flag-twirling act. Both of their acts, along with a newly revamped fanfiction skit, were fantastic breaks from the intensely emotional songs that dominates Emilie Autumn’s set list.

Towards the beginning of the show, Max seemed a bit miffed by the vintage, early twentieth-century music playing before the show even began. I reassured him that Emilie Autumn always plays these songs to effectively pervade your mind with the right atmosphere. Strangely, I have started calling these introductory songs, the time machine songs, since they effectively suspend your sense of reality and delude you into believing that it is the late-nineteenth century in England. (I know I just stated a paradox. How can early twentieth century music be used for a show that is set in the nineteenth century? My best advice is to go with it. The historical anachronisms are kinda part of the fun of the steampunk style)

As with the show earlier this year, the Broadway-style show is essentially the trial run of small portion of what will eventually be developed into a full-blown musical, called The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls. If you have read my interview with Emilie from earlier this year, you are also aware that there is a book that the musical will be based on, which documents the trials and tribulations of Emilie’s experience in a Los Angeles psych ward in a very unorthodox way. Most of the story is set in a parallel universe, where Emilie’s parallel self (Emily with a “y”) finds herself trapped in a nineteenth century asylum. Most of the songs for the show’s set are set within this portion of the novel, including the satirical Girls, Girls, Girls and the tragic Gaslight.

Even if you haven’t read the book, the main premise of the story behind Emilie Autumn’s elaborate set was understandable for anyone unfamiliar with her music prior to the show. Compared with the set earlier this year, I was sad to see the hospital wheelchair missing during the dramatic performance of Take the Pill. Fittingly, it was replaced itself with arm bracelets that bound Emilie’s arm together tightly, as she struggled futilely with her Bloody Krumpets to regain some leverage of control over herself.

During Art of Suicide, the arm bracelets came back, though her Bloody Crumpets were not restraining her as much to symbolize that Emilie’s maddened mind had convinced her that true liberation cannot be sought in escaping a physical place (the mental ward). Instead, true freedom can only be attained through suicide, which begs the question as to the purpose of this song that is self-destructive in its very execution. Within this one song alone, there are many multiple meanings that this song could possibly carry. If I were to explain all of them, you’d be overwhelmed by the sheer number of multiple meanings that seem to resemble a tree with many extended branches. Taken as a whole, the entire performance itself resembles a large tree with each branch, resembling the different strands of the story behind The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.

Dramatically, the show ended with an enthusiastic curtain call that was accompanied by effusive clapping from the audience. Unsurprisingly, this second show was equally as brilliant and mind-blowing as the show from earlier this year. Adding in a few subtle new touches like Dr. Stocker(the malicious owner of the asylum) reading off the names of the asylum inmates helped keep the show interesting for anyone that has seen earlier renditions of the show. In many ways, seeing the show for a second time reminded me of my days working as a stage assistant at my high school play. One of the most memorable feelings of those days was coming away with different emotions about the show I was working behind the scenes on, after each subsequent performance. With the first show, I was really blown away and mesmerized by the thrill of seeing Emilie Autumn live for the first time. Upon seeing it a second time, I saw the underlying genius of the way the show is structured, and the slight nuances that reminded me of the different scenes from the book.

If you are an aficionado of Shakespeare, the Steampunk aesthetic, or nineteenth century Gothic literature (I am all of those and more), I implore you to check out Emilie Autumn’s music. Also, I highly recommend The Birthday Massacre as well, who were really the perfect band to open up for such a prodigious talent like Emilie Autumn and her Bloody Krumpets. It was also great to partake in her VIP session and Fan Club Meet-and-Greet before the show; all of which was deftly organized by Melissa King (the Asylum Headmaster/Emilie’s hard-working manager). Hopefully, I can take up Emilie’s offer on possibly having a part in her future musical! By the time I write my next concert report, I’ll be doing a long, highly-detailed review of the entire musical, once it begins playing in London’s West End. Even if I have to construct a Tardis to get there, I would, in order to see the musical on premier night.

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