Opium Underground bassist

A Rawk and Role Reversal

Opium Underground
with Lollipop Bitches and Vicious Circle
Club Paradise
New Westminster, B.C.
Friday, November 1, 1996

Review by Kevin Templeton
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Although way out in the 'burbs, Club Paradise should be commended for enlisting the services of numerous up-and-coming bands, many of whom are probably too rock or undeveloped for downtown venues to even consider booking. Never mind that the guys to the left of us are visibly headbanging (while playing pool!) to the in-house sounds of White Zombie, or that the female contingent seems fixated on the mirror wall, some even teasing their hair. What the hell, at least people seem to be having a good time, and with music clubs dropping like flies, the adage "beggars can't be choosers" indeed comes to mind. Besides, it's "Dead Wedding" night at the Paradise, and many of the men have dressed in fashionable drag attire... hey people, Hallowe'en was last night!

Vicious Circle guitarist In typical club fashion, the actual live music started an hour late, with five-piece Vicious Circle taking the pole position. Clearly not named in reference to the classic D.R.I. track, Vicious Circle played a tight 'n crunchy set of placcid, passable hard rock reminiscent of groups like Queensryche or Tesla during the better moments, and RATT (yes, RATT) or Candlebox during the weaker moments. The drummer's kit seemed unnecessarily large for the band's sound, with that huge bar/cage setup goin' on, again reminding me of several poodle-hair bands of yester-year. "Comic relief" arrived, though, as a man in drag with a fake breast hanging out from his blouse jumped on stage, letting the band's vocalist pretend to tongue the nipple. Thanks, but no thanks.

Lollipop Bitches were up next and, well, with a name like that I was at least expecting more of a stance on things (on something... anything). Dressed in trashy glam outfits themselves, the Bitches were a definite piss-take on the whole pop/glam metal charade of the 80's, with two- or three-chord songs in abundance throughout their half-hour set -- which included a cover of Poison's (yes, Poison's) "Cry Tough."

Lollipop Bitches drummer The singer/guitarist grimaced his ghastly painted mug at the bar patrons, and it wasn't entirely hard to tell that the Bitches were content in being goofs up on the Paradise stage. True to form, the frontman ran out into the crowd with a can of that silly string stuff, taking particular aim at the (un)suspecting soundman. Silly, that's for sure. Where's Flash Bastard when ya need 'em?

Finally, with Opium Underground taking to the stage, I was expecting to hear some serious groove-laden R-O-C-K to make amends for the fairly shallow opening acts. Having never heard nor seen the band previous to this evening (although I once read them being compared to Soundgarden-style grunge), Opium Underground proved clearly to be the best of the three bands -- but that, I remind you, isn't saying much. Yes, they were energetic, funky, even somewhat emotional, but, again, they were dressed in drag and... well, maybe you get the picture.

Opium Underground guitarist One particular track, "Chameleon," piqued my interest, sounding like many of the group's tunes: powerful, catchy and well-written. It's just bloody hard to take musicians pre-occupied with dressing up as the opposite sex seriously, especially when the style and mood of the songs doesn't match the "comical" nature of the presentation.

This was a difficult show to review because of the All Hallow's Eve gimmickry happening (where's the pyro?!?). Club Paradise is a cool club that deserves support and a shot at booking more of the "higher-level" acts along with the beginning ones. But I know Opium Underground would have fared much better had they been on a different bill, perhaps with heavier or more diverse groups to share the stage with. Case in point -- the band's frontman once yelled to the audience, many of whom had cleared from the front of the stage, "What did you expect? Dance music??" Hey, it's a "wedding," ain't it?!

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 8, 1996

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