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This Is Spinal Sketch Tap

[whitespace] Heavy-metal parody band
rocks the Usual

By Sarah Quelland

Last Saturday night (July 25), the gregarious rock band Sketch headlined the Usual in San Jose with Slick 50 and Triple Seven opening. Outrageously over the top, this locally based foursome delivers an affectionate parody of the heavy-metal genre, skillfully filling its sets with all the metal clichés, including costumes, fire, blood and lots of headbanging. The result is entertaining campy fun that's a must for closet metal heads.

True to the rock-star-concert tradition, midnight comes and goes before an eerie red light douses the fog-filled stage and Sketch welcomes its audience with screaming guitars. The band's drummer, Joe King, sits in a cage, carefully guarded by two gigantic skulls; Big D grooves on his bass; and lead guitarist Pac Man wails away dressed in a bright red cowboy suit with long white fringe and a matching cowboy hat.

Frontman Simon Woodstock, who swears that he's the illegitimate son of KISS' Gene Simmons, stomps out in giant club kid-style shoes and a shiny silver outfit, grabs his skull-covered gargoyle microphone stand--and the freaky show begins.

Known for touring in a haunted hearse, Sketch revels in its theatricality. Woodstock, in particular, is a real showman. Seemingly fearless, he works the crowd with his exaggerated rock-star moves. His voice is best compared to Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil, and the band incorporates elements of metal die-hards Twisted Sister, Alice Cooper, KISS and Ozzy Osbourne--along with a touch of old Metallica--into its own unusual style.

Sketch opens with "Metal Mom," a song about a groupie who "can't stop sucking the rock-star dick." After completing an elaborate band introduction, Woodstock yells out, "Hey, you know what? This song's about fucking," before slamming and grinding his hips into a song called "Tonight."

Written more for humor than for substance, Sketch's original tongue-in-cheek lyrics further the band's metal high jinks. On "Headbanger 2000," Woodstock sings, "I'm the only headbanger at my high school/I'm making my own rules/I'm a headbanger/Nobody thinks I'm cool."

During "Headbanger 2000," Pac Man bursts into a guitar solo that playfully mocks serious metal shows by going on and on and on--and on. He plays guitar behind his head, writhes on the floor and, in general, shamelessly hams it up. Before he's done, Woodstock, along with the crowd, is cracking up at his performance. Pac Man also sings and plays "Fire," the requisite "acoustic portion" of the set.

No self-respecting metal show is complete without a power ballad either, and Sketch had the foresight to pass out lighters before the show. During the "City Lights," people flick their Bics and sway as Woodstock sings about being "blinded by those city lights" before King flails into an extensive drum solo.

During the grand finale, "Executioner," Woodstock holds up a skull, pours dark red blood all over his face and chest and starts raging like a madman. He sets his mic stand on fire, and the entire band starts smashing up the stage in tribute to the rebellious decadence of rock & rollers past. Having torn everything to pieces, the band takes a bow and the show's over.

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Web extra to the July 30-Aug. 5, 1998 issue of Metro.

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