WORDS BY TODD BELLO and PHOTOS BY ROBERT A. CHADWICK | Go Venue Magazine
The bite was still in the air Thursday [November 1, 2018] night in Joliet, Illinois when John 5 and The Creatures, Wednesday 13, and Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow rocked The Forge in epic metal freaky fashion.
From a line that wrapped around the corner and down the block fans poured in from the cold to The Forge in Joliet to collect there post-Halloween treat in the form of hard-core metal superstar John 5 and his arguably supernatural guitar playing abilities. This along with one of the most kick-ass performance by lead singer Wednesday 13 and his band, and yes even a metal themed freaky sideshow called Hellzapoppin to start the night off, all served as perfect backdrop and opener for an outstanding post-Halloween metal concert.
Personally, I have got it to say I can be awful picky at times when it comes to evaluating local venues. Some of the best concert experiences I’ve had honestly haven’t been in biggest or most expensive venues. They have actually been in venues like The Forge. The Forge itself is not entirely a huge venue so much, but it’s not small by any means either. The two-story venue is almost the perfect size to see your favorite artists up close and personal. I like its large two-story open design with gracious views of the stage and crowd below. And yes, its large enough to be able to hold a nearly sold-out crowd as large as they did Thursday night for John 5 (spilling all the way up to the back bar) was an impressive experience, to say the least. So yeah it was packed, but the good kind of packed. And still, even with a well-sized grouping of metalheads and metal enthusiasts galore, the bar and serving staff was tremendously awesome in getting their drinks out. Having large bars on both levels I think helped. But also in speaking with one of the bartenders name Jen, who has worked at The Forge since April, she indicated that the staff really do have a great relationship with the owners and management (and everyone really that is involved, which is no small number) that it does take to put on a kick-ass concert in the middle of Joliet. She said she thoroughly enjoys the times when she gets to come to work because she herself is a big fan of quite a few of the artists that have come through the Forge recently.
Hellzapoppin: A metal themed freaky side-show (slash) …talent show (slash) …The I don’t know what the hell else to call it… TYPE show? But really it was the “Hard to peel my eyes away! …show” is what it was. I’m not sure if it was the fire/sword swallowing or the razor blade splitting, or the broken glass …firewalking …half man in a cowboy hat that I enjoyed the most from this dark circus themed bastard of a vaudeville production that was tremendously thrilling from start to finish. Throughout the performance, heavy metal pumped into the crowd as they gasped and reeled at what would normally be just the average opening band. But with Hellzapoppin they got a truly devilish combination of hardcore metal backed by some pretty surreal circus-type performances. The crowd was cheering and reeling to such melodic visual dysfunction and loving it the whole time. I hope you got your beer early this show is on!
Wednesday 13: An outstanding artistic performance of almost theatrical wicked rock metal. Wednesday 13 was my darkhorse favorite of the night. A band I had not previously seen or heard of. But with their gravelly vocals, high energy front heavy stage presence and wicked stage props, the dark beings that they are Wednesday 13 shredded the whole time as fans eagerly soaked every visually stimulating moment, myself included.
John 5: Ok so, this was my first time seeing John 5 solo and OMG did he deliver. The lead guitarist for Rob Zombie held The Forge in a kick-ass rockfest for the remainder of the night. After seeing John 5 up close and personal, I can validate the comments of a number of fans who stated: “He is a metal God …Period.” The lights flooded down a small and narrow stage flanked on both sides by demented blowup lawn Halloween ornaments billowing and tiling as John 5 and the creatures crept their way into a place as an eerie background tune of from Halloween the movie slowly filled the air. The crowd is screaming hysterical. I hear more vocal comments in the crowd like “this guy is fucking awesome!” yelled from the two guys next to me. Followed by “…Off the fuck’n chain”.
Then BAM! Dressed in all white leather and fur John 5 in his traditional stage makeup and crew quickly and energetically engages in the crowd In what can only be described as subhuman guitar playing skills from the get-go (and the rest of the night for that matter). The man’s fingers were just flying nonstop it was a sight to see. Going through riff after riff the energy of the crowd continued to increase song after song. In unison, the fans start lurching back-and-forth and thrashing together. The energy of this place increases and the smile on John 5‘s face, even underneath all that stage make up, grows exponentially. I have got to say this guy really enjoys what he does and brings an energy to any space he occupies. It is simply enthralling to experience. In fact, that silly grin could not be wiped off his face the whole night. And let’s just make it all clearer that his guitar work is an art form with its easy flow and visible extension of himself while he plays. Like during his jazzy bubble rift – his pinging and picking aggressive at the high notes, was just amazing. The crowd is pumped and dancing …ok maybe they are a bit drunk. But none the less, they know they are having a great time. And then they really went wild when he brought out what can only be described as a neon yellow, liquid filled, guitar and continue to shred upside down at times for a few more songs. “Just fucking awesome!” comes screaming out from somewhere in the crowd.
For the night John 5 was really few on many words but he really didn’t need to say much. He continued to rock the rest of the night letting his guitar speak for him. John 5 truly showed off his multi-faceted abilities and skills by continually switching instruments throughout the night including a host of numbers and licks from a few of his favorite guitars and mandolins and even rocking an electric banjo for a while. He even used what appeared to be a violin bow at one point in time on his six-string with haunting results. Despite having no lead vocalist. Bass player Ian Ross and drummer Logan Nix held the perfect complement to John 5‘s guitar playing medlies and really completed the package for the whole night. Until the end the energy from John 5 and the entire show was surreal. And fans for a small extended time on a Thursday night got to continue to get on their Halloween freaky rock fix in. Great venue for a kick-ass great show. Period.
John 5 and the Creatures
Hellzapoppin Circus SideShow
All images © 2014-2018 Robert Chadwick Photography.