The What: The Protomen with Posh Hammer & Bulgogi
The When: Saturday, July 11
The Where: The Protomen at The Orange Peel
The Cost: $12 in advance, $15 day of show
By Jonathan Rich
Simply put, the rock opera powerhouse known as The Protomen is like nothing else available for your Asheville entertainment dollar this weekend.
Mix together synth interpretations of 1980s power ballads, add in the fashion sense of cult movies Streets of Fire and Tron, blend with the alluring esthetic of Mega Man video games and the work ethic of Sylvester Stallone and you’ll come close to understanding what will be on stage at the Orange Peel Saturday night.
“Our show is a lot like an Olivia Newton John show in 1981… lots of bloodshed,” says the band leader, codenamed Commander B. Hawkins IV, from his home base of Nashville, Tenn.
“We made our first jam about 12 years ago and from there it sort of just spiraled out of control into the roving beast it is today.”
At the start of previous shows at smaller venues such as Broadways, the Emerald Lounge and the Bele Chere stage, a masked man known as Kilroy has walked out with a futuristic chainsaw on one hand and a battle-damaged motorcycle helmet in the other to incite the crowd into a fist-pumping orgy of sweaty rock goodness. At least eight other bandmates lent their contributions to the fray. But that was before the group opened for Tenacious D and appeared at high-profile gigs including the Vans Warped Tour.
“We generally roll about eight-to-nine assholes deep,” the Commander explains.
“It’s weird. We love playing to huge crowds, but somehow the smaller shows at rock clubs are usually way more fun and intense. I think the lessons we learned from (those shows) are how to keep going when 98 percent of the crowd watching you has no idea what’s going on. We’re unlike anything that’s happened on a rock-and-roll stage in probably 30 years, so we’re pretty much ready for some confused stares. But they usually come around pretty quick unless we totally suck that night.”
For the band to not “totally suck” Saturday night, all they will have to do is rise to the level of their material. Previous albums contained original futuristic-themed songs, but what really got the crowd whipped into a frenzied froth was their interpretations of Queen songs or selections from their new album The Cover Up, which includes their unique take on Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone, Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night, and I Still Believe from the Lost Boys soundtrack.
“To be fair, if you just look at the track listing, it’s just a bunch of cover songs (you know, since it’s a cover album, and all),” he sys, “but we’re not a band to take the easy way out, unfortunately. We always take it over the top (starring Sylvester Stallone, Dave Mendenhall, and Robbie Loggia). It’s a film-soundtrack concept album, so if you like tough jams and trying to figure out stories, you just may like it. I’d like people to just listen to the album all the way through one time. If they still think it’s “just cover songs,” totally fine, no skin off my cheese.”
The Protomen may not have any direct local ties to Western North Carolina, but their previous missions in Asheville have left an impression on these post-modern warriors fighting on the front lines of rock. That is part of the reason they chose Asheville as the first stop on their East Coast tour.
“We always love it in Asheville,” the Commander says. “Even the shows at Broadways, with the tiny stage, were awesome. But I think what keeps us coming back are the sweet potato fries at Rosetta’s. We never have enough time in Asheville. That being said, if we have any to spare, I’m sure we’ll just spend it drooling all over everything at the Moog shop.”
This is far more than just a “cool band” with some clever marketing (for the pre-release of The Cover Up they sold the songs on cassette and offered vintage Walkman players to sweeten the deal). The Protomen will transport all in attendance to another world, another time, and another realm where passion and sweat will be rewarded not with a medal, but an exhaustively good time.
“I can tell you one thing that’s changed since we first started – we’ve got more songs now,” the man in charge says. “We’ve pretty much been a force to be reckoned for at least two weeks now. I don’t know what it was that put us over the tipping point, but I’m pretty sure we tipped.”
Are you ready to tip the scales of your Saturday night, Player 1? If so, the show for those 18 years of age and older begins at 9 p.m. with opening acts Posh Hammer & Bulgogi. Insert ticket and prepare to have your face melted off.
Jonathan Rich writes about entertainment for Ashvegas.com.
Wow. This may be one of the best articles written about the Protomen I’ve ever read.