Avatar Brings Their Freak Show to the Queen City
The Avatar Country World Tour Hits The Underground Charlotte
What’s that smell? Wait, is it a freak show? Indeed, it was. A freak show of the most wonderful kind rolled into the Underground as Swedish metal band Avatar made a stop in Charlotte. The band is currently out touring in support of their latest album Avatar Country and brought their musical circus with all its bells and whistles with them.
Kicking off the event was Atlanta band Like Machines, formerly known as The Stir. The talented trio has toured with the likes of Collective Soul, Fozzy, and Clutch and has a well-developed stage presence to go along with their experience. Led by guitarist and vocalist Andrew Evans, Like Machines is no-frills, in your face rock and roll of the very best kind. The rhythm section of drummer Cheney Brannon and bass guitarist Tanner Hendon drove a furious pace all night long. Their sound is uniquely familiar yet truly their own, the kind that makes you comfortable amidst a cacophony of blazing guitars, pounding beats, and vocals that make you stand up and take notice. Evans is a standout musician, technically superb and with a charisma that shines through in every note. “Nightshift” was my favorite tune and I could easily imagine hearing this on metal stations across the country. Like Machines is definitely a band worth getting their early to check out.
Another Atlanta band was up next, this time in the form of noise-punk duo ‘68. The two-piece band consists of guitarist and vocalist Josh Scogin, formerly of punk hardcore outfit The Chariot, and drummer Nikko Yamada and has been making some serious waves in the last few years. ‘68 has toured with the best and graced the stages at major festivals with spots on Vans Warped Tour and Carolina Rebellion. As the duo took the stage, it was apparent that the show was going to be as important as the music during their live performance. Dressed in suits and dress shoes, they definitely had a different look. Yamada’s drum kit is set up sideways in the front of the stage with Scogin’s microphone only a few feet away. The two musicians are not only talented but extraordinary showmen. There was not a minute of their set where something wasn’t going on to take notice of. Scogin was all over the stage pointing his guitar and slinging it over his shoulder as he worked his mic stand back and forth and side to side. At one point, he got down on the stage, playing on his back with his feet up in the air.
Although Yamada wasn’t as mobile due to the constraints of a drum kit, he was standing, pointing, and working his sticks throughout the set. The two often played facing each other and playing off each other’s energy even going so far as to grab hands as Scogin bent down for a kiss of the hand. It was a wildly entertaining set and as usual, ‘68 had the crowd captivated and begging for more.
After such a wild ride, the crowd was ready for a short break, taking the time to rehydrate and avail themselves of the facilities. When the lights went dark, everyone was ready to turn the venue into Avatar Country if only for a little while. A taped version of the theme from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was playing and the vibe was already a bit bizarre with the audience singing along to “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
Suddenly the lights flashed on and the Avatar marquee was lit up at the rear of the stage, blinking on and off as drummer John Alfredsson took his place on his throne. Guitarists Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby and Tim Ohrstrom came out next along with bass guitarist Henrik Sandelin in their matching outfits as the band cranked into the opening of “Hail the Apocalypse” from their 2014 album of the same name. Frontman Johannes Eckerstrom came out with his top hat and walking stick in full “Joker” type face paint, presenting himself as the ultimate ringmaster to this wild and crazy metal circus as he drank from a gas can and interacted with the fans up in front.
From that point on, it was game on as Avatar blew the roof off the Underground as the fans went crazy with each and every note. It was metal madness at its best with every hair spinning second as Avatar put on one hell of a show. We even saw Eckerstrom pull out the trombone for the jaunty tune “Puppet Show” and he displayed his tongue every chance he got rivaling even the one and only Gene Simmons of KISS in that department, but don’t tell Gene I said that. Don’t let the show fool you though. Avatar isn’t all about the theatrics, although there are plenty. They are all gifted musicians in their own right and together they are a savage and ferocious metal machine.
It was a raucous night of rock that only Avatar could bring as they transformed at least a small part of the Queen City into Avatar Country. So if you’re heading out for the evening and you smell something freaky, be sure and check it out. It just might be Avatar coming to take over a city near you.
For tour dates and ticket information, click here.