I won the raffle at a Jonny X and the Groadies' house show earlier this year. My number was called, I squealed, and I was presented with a Groadies gift pack in front of a living room full of cheering punks. Inside, I found buttons, records, fireworks, chili, corpse paint, and a small bottle of thick, red liquid labeled "blood" in Old English. Jonny X and the Groadies have always known how to make a kid feel special.
On July 4th, the Groadies celebrate their sixth anniversary as Portland's premiere "party black metal" band by opening a one-day Groadies theme park. Kiddie pools, barbecue, a chili cook-off, prizes, and five skull-crushing bands (including the Groadies' costumed assault on the senses, complete with smoke machine and light show) are promised, and it's all free.
With all the fun, it would be easy to dismiss Jonny X and the Groadies as an elaborate gimmick, if they weren't one of the most impressive live bands in the world. Jonny X's demon-shriek vocals, symphonic midi-keyboard arrangements, thunderous drum machines, blazing, prodigal guitar/bass work, all played at breakneck speed and maximum volume, add up to exhaustively awe-inspiring performances. The Groadies' maximalistic nine-song, nine-minute sets leave audiences winded and twitching, and before an onlooker can catch his or her breath and remark on the marvel of power and efficiency they have just witnessed, the Groadies have already broken down their gear.
Six years after their first July 4th show in guitarist Travis West's parents' backyard, Jonny X and the Groadies still work hard at perfecting their performances. "There is so much technology available to create spectacles for people. We have only begun to explore the possibilities. There's lots of cool shit to be done with wires," says Jeremy Romagna, the Groadies' drum machine operator and technical guru.
"We have pages of fantasies," adds Backous. "There is still a lot we want to do as a band."
"I fantasize about having a totally portable truck/venue so we can pull up somewhere, hit one button, and the truck folds out like a Transformer, and while we're playing, a fire-breathing robot comes out." Romagna says.