Somewhere, Stephen Sondheim is kicking himself for not crafting his murderous musical Sweeney Todd as a gothic rock production featuring the Portland death punk band Back Alley Barbers.
With a website spattered in blood from straight edged razors, and press shots of the members in an actual barbershop featuring alluring yet deadly grins, the costumed vaudevillians of the Back Alley Barbers have a look that could have even made director Tim Burton jealous.
Alright, that's probably a bit of a stretch. After all, the evolution of that musical to the big screen billed with Johnny Depp is about as big of a blockbuster as Sondheim and Burton could have hoped for.
And in fact, the macabre bent of Back Alley Barbers would likely have been a little too devilish for Sondheim's serial killer work. Given the countless murders and cannibalism in Sweeny Todd, that might be hard to believe, but it's true.
With a damning ska bounce, and Gwen Stefani vocals-circa early No Doubt—the Back Alley Barbers fill every song with an underlying darkness that communicates a primal hunger for flesh. Not unlike the clamoring for meat pies in Sweeney Todd. Throbbing upright bass and shrieking guitar thunder through devious track after devious track.
In their song "The House" off their debut album Psycho Sonotas, lead singer Sara Linkof—or Queen Pirate as she is also known—sings about luring her lover to a haunted dwelling where he will become her "necro-mantic fantasy." There are also tracks on the album titled "Necromancers" and "Gravedigger's Love Song." Clearly these guys—signed to Splatterhouse Wreckords—are attracted to the grisly. A little too much so for Todd which although filled with murder, nevertheless remained a fanciful musical with lighthearted elements.
Still, it's hard not to picture Queen Pirate and her cohorts, bass player Corvin Blacke, guitarist Dead End Johnny Robinson and drummer Phil DeGennaro as perfect alternate cast members. Linkof herself is an actual hairdresser—and pinup girl—covered in eerie tattoos; a skull on her belly, a pair of pistols on her hips, a casket on her chest and countless others. The rest are masters of the same kind of gothic punk bravado punctuated by body art, mohawks and sinister smiles.
Back Alley Barbers are not themselves all barbers, nor are they actors necessarily fit for a musical—but they are artists who bleed a chilling blend of sexy, yet hair-raising punk. They're rock stars—something else Linkof has tattooed on her hands—perfect for their own kind of gory stage.
Back Alley Barbers
Sat., April 5
Volcanic Theatre Pub, 70 SW Century Dr.