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They looked like rock 'n' roll Vikings, what with their long red beards and even longer hair. Either that or an Appalachian motorcycle gang. But who spells Thor with two r's? Apparently, Valient Thorr does. And it was the first clue I found that the rough-rolling rockers weren't of Nordic descent. And while the band does hail from the Appalachian region, it's not their real home. But more on that later. First, let's get to the rock.
It was Sunday, September 17 the day the Dolphins lost to the Bills and the bearded quintet was banging the eardrums at Backbone Music in downtown Delray Beach (61 SE Fourth Ave.). There were about 75 people in the audience, most of whom caught Valient Thorr at this year's Warped Tour in Miami (and the year before, in a much superior city). While playing inside a music store might seem a little restricting for a Warped band, that wasn't the case for the Valient ones. This is, after all, the same band that played a surf expo in Orlando the night before. Big stage or little stage, indoor or outdoor it's all the same, as long as the energy's there. And hot damn, was it there. Despite the absence of a stage, Valient Thorr's brand of sped-up hard rock gave the Backbone crowd an aural (if not physical) workout.
"If you're not sweating, it means we're not doing our job," vocalist Valient Himself told the audience. "If the gears aren't greased, the machine breaks down."
Well, he was pretty damned greased, anyway. After about three songs, V.H. took off his shirt and wrung the sweat out of it. The fruits of his labor were ripe, indeed. And while the rest of the band was greasing its gears for another song, V.H. took over the airwaves with some impromptu ranting. He sounded like a Southern preacher on a tirade, directing his passion toward a particular type of sinner the type we vote for.
"Jerks always get revealed through their own jerk actions," V.H. told the crowd. "Something smells fishy, and I'm sick of smelling this shit you know what I'm talking about? I do, even if I'm making it up as I go along."
As always, a few crowd members were yelling for an end to all that funny talking business. Valient Thorr answered with "Goveruptcy," a song that I later learned captured the band's philosophy in a nutshell: "There's people that are here on Earth/They believe everything they read/This government promised justice/This government delivered greed." Now, there's a key word in that line that's crucial to understanding where Valient Thorr is coming from Earth. It's not where the band's from, apparently.
"We might possibly be the only Venusians down here," V.H. told me after the show. And he wasn't joking. I knew the band members have always claimed to be from Venus, but I wasn't sure how serious they'd be in person. Well, V.H. was as serious as global warming, and he went way into detail about Valient Thorr's situation, explaining how they came from Venus and ended up in Greenville, North Carolina.
"We were scientists sent on a mission to see if Venusians could sustain life on Earth," he said. "The weather was terrible on Venus because of how everyone treated the planet. So we were sent to save this planet from the same fate. But Walt Disney stole our time machine, and now we're stuck."
Yes, Disney's been known to do that, I thought. Or maybe that was Dr. Who. Anyway, I asked V.H. if the show in Orlando caused any bad mojo for the band, what with all the Disney-owned theme parks, resorts, and highway signs only a passed-out blind person could miss.
"Disney's a smart individual very cunning," V.H. said, noting that Disney is not dead, as we're led to believe. "And he's pretty much immortal. It's not our place to fault him for looking out for himself, even if it meant being a Nazi sympathizer."
Yeah, he went there. But the real truth of the matter, he says, is that they just don't have time to look for the stolen machine. Valient Thorr spends most of the year on the road and has tours planned well into 2007. And with soon-to-be tour mates like Joan Jett and the Eagles of Death Metal, Valient Thorr's got better things to think about than finding that Mickey Mouse mofo. Time machine? Hell, they're busy enough looking after their tour bus.
Was Valient Thorr's show at Backbone Music a mission from Venus? That's one theory. The other is that the band came down at the request of Backbone co-owner Nunzio Esposito. (His brother, Rafael, is the other co-owner.) Since the store opened, nearly a year ago, the Espositos have been hosting two or three shows a week (listed at MySpace.com/BackboneMusic). Most are local shows (the Phalanx, Protagonist, Fallen From the Sky), though there's usually a national act or two each month (the Phenomenauts and Time Again being two of the bigger acts to have played at Backbone).
"There aren't many all-ages venues around here, especially ones that cater to certain styles of music," Nunzio said. "We can get into broader genres because it's not based on alcohol sales. There's not a lot of money in this anyway. It's definitely a labor of love."
And what Nunzio really loves is selling records you know, those big slabs of vinyl that were once the format. But even CDs are becoming passé nowadays (damned iTunes). Nunzio's well are of that.
"Vinyl is big for us. It tends to draw folks who are into a wider range of music, not just what's on the radio," Nunzio said. "The cool thing is that since we're one of the few places that sells vinyl, it brings in music lovers from north Broward to West Palm."
Oh, and don't forget Backbone's newest market Venus. It sure beats going to Disney World.
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