MEMPHIS — I’m not much of a music man. My tastes and knowledge are somewhat limited when it comes to bands and songs, and I hardly ever venture out to go to concerts. In fact, there was a long period in my childhood where I didn’t listen to much music at all, which might sound sociopathic, and honestly, I can’t disagree.
It wasn’t until late in high school when I really started to appreciate music; my core friend group introduced me to the likes of Widespread Panic, Animal Collective and The Velvet Underground. At one point, our small group even formed an amateurish garage band called Coulomb Fields, a moniker that was chosen randomly out of a dictionary. My instrument of choice was a microKORG synthesizer. It was the perfect piece of equipment for someone like me who had zero musical ability or acumen. I was able to figure out which keys sounded good together, and while holding them down I twisted some knobs to alter the pitch and tone creating drone-like noises.
Even after my brief stint as a “musician,” I still don’t seek out new music or bands. I’m only exposed to music through the soundtracks of the movies I watch. And because I played the synthesizer for years, I have become partial to movie scores that incorporate the sounds of ’70s synthwave. I really dig bands like Tangerine Dream, who worked on the scores for Michael Mann’s “Thief” and Ridley Scott’s “Legend,” or musicians like Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter with their synth-heavy horror movie sounds. But there’s one band that I’ve had on my bucket list to go see live: Goblin. To my surprise, earlier this year Goblin announced that they were coming to our neck of the woods. They were initially scheduled to play in Little Rock but had a last-minute venue change to Memphis, which was a shame because I loathe making that drive. So, I enlisted my friend and horror enthusiast Tony Taylor to drive us up to The Black Lodge this past weekend to catch the show.
Now, I had never been to this venue before, but I did realize that its name, The Black Lodge, was a reference to the TV show “Twin Peaks”‘ other worldly, sinister black, white, and red waiting room. I assumed it was going to be like any other standard small scale concert joint in Memphis, but as Tony and I walked in we were taken aback — The Black Lodge offered a lot more than we were expecting. Along with being a music venue, it also serves as a bar, an arcade with all the classic consoles, and a video rental store where you can actually check out VHS videotapes. This place of retro technology is a hipster’s dream come true and certainly there were many a hipster in the crowd. They were checking out the horror movies for rent, playing Earthworm Jim on the SEGA, and swigging on Pabst Blue Ribbon while waiting for Goblin to show up.
Goblin has taken on many different forms over the past four decades with band members coming and going as they split off to venture out on their own. Tonight’s version of Goblin only consisted of one of the original members of the group, Claudio Simonetti. The other band members for the night included young Italian musicians Daniele Amador on guitar, Cecilia Nappo on bass, and Federico Maragoni on drums. Goblin has been responsible for some of the most memorable horror movie soundtracks of all time, as they spent many years working closely with the Italian master of horror Dario Argento on films such as “Tenebre” and “Deep Red.”
Since this year is the 45th anniversary of Argento’s movie “Susperia,” Goblin has been touring and accompanying the movie with a live score. Seeing a movie with live accompaniment performing is such a fun experience. The score basically envelops you, drowning out dialogue and sound effects, giving a different perspective of the film, allowing you to appreciate the craftsmanship and effectiveness of the soundtrack. My friend Tony described the concert as subdued, as “Susperia’s” synth-heavy score is so hauntingly and majestically beautiful, despite just how much blood is spilled during the movie. I spent most of the concert watching the band instead of watching the film.
And honestly, the band members seemed subdued as well. They were all seated at their instruments watching the monitors, waiting for their cues. They almost looked like gargoyles perched on the edges of the stage. I got to wondering just how many times they’ve seen the movie, and since this was the last leg of their tour, were they getting bored with it? Occasionally, the band would ad lib and riff. Simonetti would gleefully throw in a few extra notes at the end of scenes, and the drummer would play a rimshot at inappropriate times in an attempt to be humorous, but if you weren’t overly familiar with the score, these musical jokes might have flown over your head.
CROWD OF HIPSTERS
Once the credits started to roll, crew members rushed to the stage to break down the monitors and remove the chairs from the platform, giving a lot more space for the band to maneuver. Simonetti thanked the crowd of hipsters and announced that the real concert was about to begin. With that, Goblin spent the next hour rocking out to other songs and scores from their discography. The subdued feeling from the first half of the show was instantly washed away with an unapologetic intensity as the sounds of synthwave mixed with hard rock. The band and crowd were alive, although it was strange watching Simonetti jam out on his three-tier keyboard. He looked like the odd man out on stage in a black and white suit jacket, whereas the rest of the band looked like the epitome of grunge rock, decked out in denim, leather, long hair and fishnet stockings.
The quality of the concert portion was unexpected and, according to the hipsters in the crowd, it was also “mind blowing,” and I’d have to agree with them. This was probably the most fun I’ve had at a concert since well before covid 19. I’m just grateful that I was able to see one of my favorite horror movies along with one of my favorite bands, allowing me to be able to check them off my bucket list. Now I just need to rummage around my storage unit, dust off the old microKORG, and get the band back together.