While most people were heading to bed last night, I was headed to The Turf Club to see Hellzapoppin. With a 9:30 door time and 10:00 PM start (although they didn’t actually start until closer to 10:30), it’s safe to say that I was a bit exhausted and regretting my choice in entertainment for my Tuesday night… that is until the show started. Then I was instantly captivated to the point where I completely lost track of time until I got in my car to head home and realized it was well into the wee hours of the morning.
Freak shows seem to be a bit of a lost art but Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow Revue is definitely keeping it alive. Although they are always at Riot Fest (a Chicago festival that I go to every year), I have never been able to see them perform. The lines are always too long and the line-up of that festival is always too stacked for me to miss any moment of music. I was super excited to see them announce a show here in the Twin Cities and the fact that it was at the intimate Turf Club- a venue that I absolutely love- was just the icing on the cake. After standing in the longer than expected line that stretched down the block, I found myself inside the familiar venue surrounded by unfamiliar people. This event had brought people out that aren’t your typical concert going fans. Curiosity killed the cat and it was clear that many of the people who came out to spend their Tuesday night with the freaks were curious and ready for something different and new.
Maybe one of the reasons there aren’t many freakshows left is the fact that they could be considered politically incorrect. I mean, is it really nice and proper to stare at someone because of their differences? Absolutely not. That being said, I got a sense from all of the performers last night that they truly love doing what they do and don’t mind the gawkers. In fact, they thrive on that curiosity and the jaws on the ground look they get from audiences across the world. I will do my best to use words that aren’t negative or deemed politically incorrect but, keep in mind, I was at a freak show and it is what it is.
The ringleader of the show was Bryce ‘The Govna’ Graves. Bryce definitely has the perfect personality to spearhead an event like this. His announcer like voice commanded your attention and his sinister yet approachable look with the top hot and the clown eye make up made him a sight that you just couldn’t take your eyes off of. Although most of his time was spent introducing the other performers and keeping the crowd’s energy up even though the night was quickly turning into morning, he was able to show off a couple of tricks for the crow but those didn’t even come close to comparing to the tricks and stunts pulled off by the other performers.
One of the first performers we met on Tuesday night was Short E. Dangerously- a half man that, much like Bryce, commands your attention with ease. It was hard not to stare as Short E. Dangerously used his hands as feet and climbed onto platforms to perform truly jaw dropping stunts. Having lost his legs at an early age due to a medical condition, it would have been so easy for Aaron Wollin to just call it quits and live a fairly calm life but instead he grabbed a microphone and his cowboy hat and has been wowing crowds for over twenty years.
Ryan Stock had to have been one of my favorite performers of the Hellzapoppin Circus but he was also the one that made me cringe the most. One of the first stunts he performed was putting a hook through his septum piercing (okay, I can deal with that being that I have a septum piercing of my own) but it was clear there was more to this stunt as there were clips dangling from this hook. He went on to put the clips in his eyes and continued to hang cowbells and a bowling ball from below everything which stretched his nose and eyes down. Although it didn’t completely gross me out, something about this stunt had me cringing and wanting to turn away but that was the magic of it. Beyond that trick, much of Ryan’s time was spent pulling condoms through his nasal cavity and blowing them out his nose. He joked with the crowd, “Yeah, you paid to see me– condom boy– always use protection!” Was it cheesy? Absolutely but it was also amazing to see what this fairly normal looking guy could do.
At 3 feet tall, Nik Sin is definitely one of the smallest performers I have ever seen but that didn’t stop his ability to captivate the crowd. I watched in awe as he was strung up from the rafters wearing a straight jacket and, within no time, was being hoisted down and helped back onto the stage after escape said straight jacket. Between that and his ability to lay on the bed of nails with two of his fellow performers on top of him to add weight, Nik’s talent was definitely larger than life. From the moment he took the stage and swallowed five razorblades and a pieces of string which he somehow connected together (while being in his mouth) in order to pull them all out to the moment he escaped from the straight jacket, there was something about Nik Sin that was impossible to not fall in love with.
Last but not least was the beautiful and charming Amber Lynn. Amber spent majority of her time helping with stage set up, props and carrying Nik Sin and Short E. Dangerously to where they needed to be but that didn’t stop her from stealing the spotlight at times. Much like Bryce, she had a way of making you feel energized and alive even though it was nearly midnight. She interacted with the crowd in an exaggerated but super sincere way. Amber had the honor of being the star of the last trick where she got into a coffin-like box and had Bryce shove metal plates through the box as if to cut her in half. Did she get out alive? Did the blades slice right through her? I’m not going to ruin that for you. You’ll just have to go see it!
Power tools going up people’s noses, knives going down people’s throats, running chainsaws in people’s mouths… how did you spend your Tuesday night?