69 eyes returns to Portland

Photo by Victoria Drews.


“Is that lipstick or mace?” the security guard asked me.

“It’s lipstick,” I said, pulling out the spiky black tube.

“Can you turn up the brightness?”

My e-ticket wouldn’t scan. Naturally.

“Inside left wrist,” the guy at the ticket booth asks so I can receive my stamp pass after my ticket had finally scanned.

I pulled up my sparkly black cardigan sleeve, extending the top of my right wrist.

“Yeah — inside left wrist.”

Poor man. Why am I like this?

Pulling up my other cardigan sleeve I stick my arm out, “Inside,” the thought punctuates my action. “Left wrist,” as I turn my wrist out to be stamped.

I could already feel the distinct bouncy vibrations of the music in the hallway heading into the Hawthorne on Feb. 4.  Gravelly vocals screamed into the relatively empty, small theater; they looked cool. Their instrumentals weren’t bad. I had no idea who they were. Two songs later the crowd had mostly filled in.

“Repeat after me! T-O-X-I-C! Zombie!” A few people bobbed along. A few of them cheered. More of them began chanting with them. The classic Rob Zombie-supernatural-gore-metal vibes are strong with the Portland-based fivesome, Toxic Zombie. Self-described as being “Reborn from the slowly-rotting corpse of modern music to bring back the undead drive of straightforward brain-eating Rock and Roll,” I think once they turn up and harden the lead vocals, they’ll be there.

A ridiculously dapper-looking man in an all-white three-piece suit sat at the drums, performing a soundcheck while we all stood around, listening to the intermission music and milled around the merch tables. “How he’s able to tote around a crisp white suit on a rock ‘n’ roll tour is beyond me,” I thought to myself. Not only were they all white-clad, with long hair, but they’re all highly talented musicians. Coming from Austin, Texas, The Crowned really kicked off the show with a highly energetic performance that shook the venue. Throughout their set they joked with the crowd, shook the foundation of the venue with hard-hitting drums, chest-rumbling bass reverb and technically-impressive rhythm guitar; when their set was said and done, the crowd was cheering loudly and responding in kind to the encouragement of their participation from the lead vocalist, Marc Coronado. As soon as their white clothes disappeared behind the curtains of the stage, their crew emerged swiftly to remove a drum kit, setlists and cables from the stage to make way for the next performance.

Finally the signs that had lurked in the background of the stage since the beginning of the show were lit. “Sumo Cyco.”

“What the hell is a Sumo Cyco?”

“They were supposed to go on five minutes ago,” the man to my left said excitedly.

“There was a snowstorm up north, coming out of Denver heading to Seattle,” we chatted.

The tour was scheduled to play Seattle on Feb. 3, the night before Portland. Last Monday’s snow left a dusting of snow around the Portland Metro area, but up north off a freeway in Idaho, the tour was sheltered at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. The unfortunate delay set the tour back, and highway closures and unsafe traveling conditions lead to the ultimate cancellation of the Seattle show at the El Corazón. Despite all of the setbacks the “Hell Has No Mercy Tour 2020” faced, Sumo Cyco arrived at the venue shortly after they were supposed to start performing.

Without hardly skipping a beat, Sumo Cyco took the stage and got the crowd moving more than they had all night. Petite mermaid-haired lead singer Skye Sweetnam controlled all the eyes in the room effortlessly in a skin-tight zip-up catsuit; flanked by bassist Oscar Anesetti, drummer Matt Trozzi and guitarist Matt “MD13” Drake, the band performed several original pieces and got most of the crowd singing along for the first time that night. Mid-set a familiar tune pulsed through the club.

In short, I am a harsh critic, and I’m at my harshest when it comes to artists covering songs I know and love. Hearing the opening chords to one of my favorite System of a Down songs, I was admittedly very worried about what I was about to witness. To this point I’d had a fantastic time listening to Sumo Cyco and enjoyed watching them perform more than anything. The whole set was a constant barrage of visuals. Between watching Sweetnam climbing on her show — and watching him continue holding her on his shoulder while he played, to the Cheshire Cat smiles plastered across the faces of Anesetti and Trozzi while they played, Sumo Cyco gave Portland a reason to rock.

The show went on as Sweetnam sang System of a Down’s “B.Y.O.B.,” flawlessly,  urging the crowd to sing along with her. The night had officially begun, and the first mosh pits of the night started; Sweetnam herself hopped onto the floor to sing and rub elbows with the crowd multiple times and finished the set on an extremely high note. Hot off the heels of Symo Cyco’s electric performance, it was finally time to see one of the two most highly-anticipated bands of the night, Wednesday 13.

“God, it’s like they’re trying to kill us,” I remarked to the man on my right. We had no idea how long it would be until Wednesday 13 would be on and the venue was already full of smoke from the machines onstage. It reeked of sweat and artificial fog — little did I know that the wait would be so worth it.

In what turned out to be one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, Wednesday 13 took no time completely blowing me off my feet. In the most impressive way possible, Wednesday 13 delivered the hardcore horror gore metal performance of my dreams. Anyone that knows me knows how highly I regard Marilyn Manson as a singer/songwriter, artist, and celebrity; Wednesday 13, unknown to me before the show, gave a performance in roughly 40 minutes that made me sit back and think about the fact that I felt like I had just witnessed the 1990s Marilyn Manson/Alice Cooper/Rob Zombie/Misfits combination act of my wildest dreams.

Unsettling drooling, grueling growling vocals about all manners of gothic grossness, body paint covered “worms” and a murderous stage act worthy of being called performance art are what set Wednesday 13 apart from the rest of the show. In a fantastic marriage of visuals and timing, Wednesday 13 immediately shot to the top of my personal top-five favorite artists. I played with the slimy body paint covered “worm” in my pocket that I caught at the end of Wednesday 13’s set. Covered in color-changing body paint, Wednesday 13 writhed around on stage, rubbing the “worms” around on his chest, biting into fistfuls of them and tossing them into the crowd of excited rockers with his teeth before they took leave of the stage.

When the Wednesday 13 madness was cleared off the stage, and new setlists were pasted on the floor, the crowd began to push inward in anticipation of the main event; the Goth ‘n’ Roll legends we’d all come to seeThe 69 Eyes — were somewhere in the building, getting ready to finish out the show.

The five men filtered on stage and the crowd roared back to life after the lengthiest intermission of the night; clad head-to-toe in black leather, lead vocals Jyrki 69, bassist Archzie, and guitarists Bazie and Timo-Timo all wore matching black leather jackets and vests printed front and back with crisp white torso and arm bones — as usual, drummer Jussi 69 wore leather pants, shoes, and nothing more.

“Jussi is a show all by himself.”

The 69 Eyes kicked off their set with a classic rock anthem off their latest album, West End. “Two Horns Up” sounds and feels electric from the very beginning, with the lines “Two horns up/Never let it go/You got a gift of life/Never live it slow,” repeated in the chorus, the song hits hard and fast, making you feel like you’re imbued with all the electricity and power used to power the lights, speakers and instruments on stage. Overall, The 69 Eyes offered a wonderful setlist that smoothly blended their newer music with the songs we all know and love from the ’90s and 2000s.

Though I went to the show specifically to see The 69 Eyes — and I didn’t walk away disappointed by their performance in the least — at the end of the day, Wednesday 13 gave the Hawthorne the command performance of the evening.

Walking out into the frigid night after the show felt like emerging into a new life. The voice coming out of me was a hoarse crackle and the stiffness in my neck and shoulders rivaled the jerky rigidity of the infamous Frankenstein monster; squealing ringing set in quickly as icy wind blew the sticky hair away from my face and behind me in a furious tangle.

If you missed the show this time around, have no fear — The 69 Eyes posted on social media the day that they were supposed to be in Seattle, saying they would be returning in the fall to make up the missed show (and to tell their Seattle fans they would receive a full refund.) I can only hope that means that The 69 Eyes will be back for a whole tour, and not just to make up for the cancellation — especially if they come back with Wednesday 13.

Victoria Drews