Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Face From the World

Greetings and salutations.

At last! My week of much suffering has finally come to an end, though there are few who even know what a hellacious week this has been - the downside to a solitary ghostly existence. Seems behind-the-scenes work is something that only those behind the scenes can ever truly appreciate. That said, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank me for all my hard work. Without me to help me, this wouldn’t have been possible. I must remember to give myself a raise.

But enough of my grandstanding. Let me save you some of you the trouble – if you’re skimming this for the winners of the Band Battle, scroll down for the bold yellow text. There. Now read it and go. What delighted me most about this final fight is that I got almost as many votes asking for certain bands to lose as I did demanding that they win. The thought of a band who’s musical contributions can inspire people to insist they be decapitated and sodomized (in that order) is enough to warm even my cold heart. Furthermore, there were enough suggestions for creative deaths that I may need to release a “director’s cut” version of this fight where I start killing off musicians in other bands who happened to get too close to the melee. That I am not the only person who finds humor in putting blowfish poison on the neck of someone’s bass or luring a fat drummer into a blast furnace with Pop Tarts says that my contributions in the form of the Phantom have not been in vain.

Last week, I promised that I would be taking off my mask today, and I intend to keep that promise. But after guarding my identity so closely for this long (spies, lies, holograms, and stunt doubles), unmasking myself without a clear purpose would essentially be nothing less than a publicity stunt and such things (did I mention I was on the radio?!) are beneath me. If you ignore the fact I brutally murdered over a dozen of my colleagues for comic relief, you’ll see that my goal has always been to call attention to Roanoke’s musical talents and to give everyone a resource for listening and looking at themselves through a critical eye. Most of you have gotten that. Some of you haven’t, and I doubt you ever will, but I’ve made peace with that. You think I’m obnoxious and I think you’re dense. You’ll tell yourself that I’m just jealous of the people I insult, and I’ll console myself with the knowledge that I can play 64ths.

The first purpose in taking my mask off is so that I may assume a new role – starting in the Aug. 3rd issue, your Phantom will become the Roanoke Times’ new local music guru. As such, I’ll be writing the Top Tickets and Q&A sections of the Times’ printed and online versions of the InsideOut, working harder than I already do to put the focus on our scene. That means a new weekly look at all the best shows in the area, more exposure and face-time for the bands, and every ounce of the endearing charm you’ve come to expect from me. And as if that wasn’t cool enough, consider my new website initiative:

Designed as the first Roanoke-specific local band website, it’s a project I’ve been thinking about doing since before I ever put the mask on. But this is more than just a glorified collection of a few names – I plan on giving you everything from comprehensive show listings to cd reviews and album highlights, to all the latest gossip and news from around the scene. We’ll feature an Artist of the Month (more on that later), plan and finance special live events, and continue my tried-and-true method of celebrating the truth and how much it hurts. The site you see today is just the initial offering, with more features already planned. The part I think you’ll be most interested in is that it is absolutely free. It doesn’t require any money or effort on the part of the bands to get listed. It’s all part of my vision for putting as much emphasis on the efforts of local talent as my time and personal resources will allow. Perhaps it’s a good deed designed to compensate for my otherwise complete lack of humanity. We may never know. And don’t worry about updates. If you want to stay in touch to keep me up to date on what you’re doing, that’s fine, but I’ll find you the same way I’ve always found you – by being right there, in the thick of it, the entire time.

About this fight. As I’m unable (and unwilling) to hand out a cash prize to the winner, I’ve tried to come up with something else as a decent prize, and the best idea I’ve had is to let the winner be our very first Artist of the Month. It lets me have something of small value to award the warriors who’ve survived, and helps me avoid the “hey, you’re showing favoritism!” argument that some stupid person would make when I had to pick someone out of a group at random. Being the Artist of the Month means there’ll be interviews, in-depth coverage of your shows, photos, maybe videos (do I feel like giving you video?), some audio opportunities, and whatever other shameless promotion vehicles come to my mind. After this first month, you’ll vote just as you did for the battle, telling me who you think should be included. That’s as much of this speech as I’ve rehearsed. Enjoy the site.


The Pop Rivets vs. Savior Bullets vs. The Discordian Society vs. Madrone

Having been the only band thus far to avoid losing any members, Savior Bullets was the most significant threat. Both Madrone and the Pop Rivets had been whittled to a single man each, and the Discordian Society was barely at half-strength. Not only had Bullets managed to live this long, but they’d stolen technology from the Illbotz in Round 2 and created robot versions of themselves to fight in their stead. But along the way, JD had successfully obtained a copy of the Book of the Dead from the Mystic Master of Weather, Robin Reed. Thanks to a helpful internet how-to, he’d found a rite that would let him raise the dead, and after mastering the chants, brought back the rest of Madrone.

With zombie versions of his own band mates under his control, he formed an alliance with the members of the Discordian Society to construct a trap to let them defeat Bullets’ bots. As the robo-band marched over the horizon, the zombies in Madrone charged in, persisting to fight despite being hacked at by lasers and forcing the machines back into Discordian’s clever trap - a pit of wet cement. As Bullets rushed to try and free their toys from sinking fast, they discovered Rivet Jason’s secret plan of attack in the form of landmines, placed strategically near their side of the field. The first unfortunate victim was Savior’s singer, who stepped squarely on a mine and was promptly blown to angry pieces. That blast triggered a second explosion, injuring their bassist who broke his neck in the roll back down the hill.

Fearing that JD’s zombies would eventually be turned on them, Discordian pulled a play of their own, jumping the dj with his back turned and wrestling the book away from him. Now in control of the undead members of Madrone, they gave them a new target – JD himself! Diving for his life from his former friends, he piled into Bullets as they were trying to free their robots, knocking Savior’s guitarist headfirst into the cement and tumbling with their drummer back down into the dangerous mine field. While they both managed to avoid the triggers, the reckless zombies weren’t so fortunate, aimlessly blowing themselves to pieces in pursuit of their target. Coming to their feet, JD struck a bargain with the last survivor of Savior, promising to raise his fallen band mates in exchange for helping him get his book back. Hearing of the opportunity to get his own band back, Jason emerged from the invisibility cloak he’d sent away for some years back as part of a cereal box giveaway. The three of them would get the drop on Discordian, get back the book and settle this, band-to-band-to-band, in a fair fight.

From out of nowhere they emerged, putting knives into the backs of both members of the Discordian Society and reclaiming the Book of the Dead. True to his word, JD began the rite, first raising Bullets’ singer. But Jason wasn’t looking for a fair fight, and produced a gun, shooting the drummer and immediately turning the weapon on JD. Demanding that his band be brought back, Jason held him at gunpoint. As the spirit of Brian from the Pop Rivets began to materialize, Hill signed JD off the air permanently with one to the face. But it seems JD had one last trick up his sleeve, giving Jason a taste of his own medicine. He’d actually revived Brian from Chinese Fire Drill, who’s zombie form tackled Jason over the hill and down into the land mines where they were both blown away.

Surveying the damage, the singer from Savior Bullets looked around. He’d died and still managed to get the win for his band by being the last man standing. And yet, without his band mates, such a victory seemed hollow. Waiting until he heard the ref announce Savior Bullets’ victory, he chose not to condemn himself to an eternity of loneliness. Picking up a mine and holding it to his chest, he squeezed the trigger. Savior Bullets won.

Until next we meet…

- The Phantom