Material: What the unholy hell? We wandered into Dipiazzas in Long Beach on a Friday night, an off-the-beaten-path pizza restaurant-meets-divebar, and were greeted by the sight of three musicians in full-on makeup and elaborate costumes. They were performing to a bunch of seated attendees who were cheering the insanity in front of them between bites of gooey cheese. More about the theatricalities soon, but the music was equally confusing.
At times, they sounded like a fairly standard barroom blues-rock outfit, heavy on the Hendrix vibe. On their website, they claim that they have a sound reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, Garbage and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but we’re not hearing that. Sure, they employ some electronic tools, including drum machines, but not enough to carry the music into the realms of “industrial.” The songs are just too traditionally structured, and ordered, for that. At their best, they wander into goth-rock and post-punk territory, with a couple of tunes that bring Killing Joke and even Sisters of Mercy to mind.
Musicianship: We don’t really know what’s going on under the masks, but the two men flanking Chucho de la Muerta are clearly accomplished, experienced musicians.
The bluesy, crunchy guitar work is expertly executed, while de la Muerta pulls off some glorious tribal beats with those drum pads, front and center. The feeling is that these three musicians have been around for a while, and at one point one of them said, “What about if we do THIS?”
Performance: Clearly, this is where they really excel. We have a guitarist wearing some sort of Mad Max-style skull/gas mask and a bassist who looks like some sort of Satanic priest (horns and all). It’s a warm evening, so kudos for performing in a busy room, near a kitchen, wearing all that rubber and leather. Meanwhile, de la Muerta is kitted out like a female samurai warrior. It’s all very eye-catching and unforgettable.
Summary: Valdivia X have clearly put a lot of work into the spectacle, and it’s working in so far as they’re getting attention they might not otherwise get. There’s a bit of a mismatch between the imagery and the tunes, which aren’t nearly as dark or even as epic as the show suggests. But still, a good time was had by all.
Players: Chucho de la Muerta, vocals, guitar, programming; Kage, vocals, drums; Bob Byrnes, bass.