Okay, okay. Um. ….Tornado Rider. They’re… this band? I saw them at… the… Independent. Since there was a show. There. Um. They’re from the Land Of Sneth? So they play, Sneth Rock, yeah, I guess. Wait a minute. Okay, okay, there’s this cellist… more of a cello goblin, really… their performance…. specified the focus of my egyptian paradise?
Crap. It’s been one paragraph, and so far, this isn’t going well. Let’s start with the basics.
Last night, I hit the Independent to see their “Recession Buster” show, a cover-free night of music from local bands. The main reason I went was to see Tornado Rider, a band that I’d heard quite a bit about. “Rushad is a madman!” “He is this guy!” “You’ve never seen cello playing like this!” “He is also really weird!” “His band is great!” “He will probably do a flip off the stage!” On all counts, Tornado Rider did not disappoint.
A bit of background – TR is a San-Fran based three-piece punk rock band with a twist: Their singer and bandleader, Rushad Egglseton, plays the cello. And not just any cello, he plays the strapped-on, fully distorted, electric Sneth-rock cello. And he plays it hard. I’m seriously – he fuckin’ wails on that thing, plucking, bowing, beating the tones out until by the end of the set, his bow had suffered more hair loss than the back row at a Rogaine convention. (*clunk*)
So, we’re at the Indy, and the band sets up – the drums are all blinking green lights and the bassist is wearing a coonskin cap, and I’m thinking, “well this looks fun” and then Rushad comes out wearing his cello, a wireless mic, Umbros, and pretty much nothing else. Oookay. And he starts with the aforementioned going to town on his cello, screaming some crazy shit at us about the land of Sneth and words and other assorted Primus-infused Alice In Wonderland gobbledygook. And throughout the set, the intensity never drops, he’s just flying around the stage, doing mad high-kicks, rolling around on the floor, jumping into the audience, climbing up on tables, yelling about how he Is a Falcon, and Oh My God It’s A Dinosaur.
Woah. It was impossible not to be drawn in by the whole thing, the (apparently actual) madness of the guy, his hilariously over-the-top songs and the strength of his cello playing – deviant solos with wild tone, sort of hard-rock guitar by-way-of the bowels of hell. He simply would not let you stop paying attention to him for one second, pushing and pushing and pushing until the set ended with him on the floor, groaning out one last note from the instrument. Intense. Honestly, you gotta see for yourself:
So, okay, the dude is unhinged. A maniac. Truly, a “Cello Goblin.” But while Rushad gets the lion’s share of the attention (and you can’t say the man doesn’t earn it), I want to talk for a bit about his rhythm section. Scott Manke plays drums and Graham Terry plays bass, and they both do a really good job supporting their wild lead singer. And I don’t just mean supporting him musically (though they did that quite ably – Terry’s bass playing, in particular, was really creative – great lines, man!) – I actually think that their mere presence offers a more important type of support, a vital counter to Rushad’s over-the-top antics.
Because as fun as it is to watch a guy who is so clearly off in his own crazy world (see e.g. “glicking the gunt of Nairobi into the fortress of Norwegian butt death”), it would get a little too intense if all of the band members were off in that world with him. And by “a little too intense” I mean “really fucking weird and off-putting to the point of ruining the show.”
Instead, Manke and Terry come off as affable guys who are having a really great time rocking out with this madman, but are fully aware of the fact that they’re not actually emissaries of Sneth, sent here to yell over the mountains or whatever. And because of this, they ground the show in our reality, giving the audience an on-stage presence that we can latch onto amid the leaping and the screaming and the Umbros, safe harbor in the storm for those in the crowd who have jobs to return to tomorrow. In America. On Planet Earth.
This is because Rushad’s antics and energy are both the thing that sells the show and the thing that could utterly derail it. Without the cello and the acrobatics, the hats and the table-dancing… if, say, Rushad were a touch less crazy and played exact same music on guitar, Tornado Rider would be a very good, very fun punk-rock band with weird, ironic songs about falcons and dinosaurs. And that’s it. And on the flip side, if the everyone in the band were 100% committed to the crazines in Eggleston’s head, to joining his acrobatic, bowed bacchanal, attending a Tornado Rider show would be akin to having tea with the Mad Hatter’s gallery of goons – fun for a bit before rapidly becoming wearisome and overstaying its welcome.
Fortunately, Tornado Rider has found a balance in its onstage energy, and it totally works. When Graham goes over to Rushad to look off to the falcon in the distance, or when the two high-five before a tune, there’s a realness there that keeps the show from devolving into inanity. Similarly, Manke’s drumming really worked for me, and he rocked the whole set with a focused, pleased grin on his face – he seemed to be enjoying himself as much as I know I would’ve been. With these anchors in place, we were free to enjoy Rushad’s playing as much as it deserved to be appreciated, because truly, the guy is one-of-a-kind, a talent the likes of which I’ve rarely, if ever, encountered.
So, yeah, here I am again, dancing about the architecture, putting up YouTube videos and whatever, but of all the bands I’ve tried to write about, this is the band that truly has to be seen to be believed. Rushad is a performer like no other, and his band is a blast to watch. Give Tornado Rider 45 minutes, and they will rock your face off and eat it.
It’s a lot more fun than it sounds.