“I present Deathbot!” yelled Nick Reddy, as Kyle Scofield (aka “Deathbot”) appeared on stage. Deathbot wore a neon-colored cardboard mask, matching gloves and boots, and a full-length sleeveless fur coat over a Hawaiian shirt; he clubbed the cheering crowd with his silver, hot pink and lime green-colored foam war hammer. The beachwear-wearing and Silly String-covered crowd swung back with foam noodles. This is party metal. This is WARANIMAL.
WARANIMAL, a self-described party metal band from Portland, put on a beach party concert on Jan. 29 at SPACE Gallery, complete with a car-shaped bounce house, snow cone machine, tee-shirt cannon and hula dancer cutouts. Many attendees wore tank tops, Hawaiian shirts and shorts, unfazed by the 20-something degree temperature outside. The bounce house even had to be taken down before WARANIMAL took the stage because so many people showed up.
They’ve gained a cult following in Portland recently, and it’s easy to see why with shows like the beach party.
“Who wants to go to a show when you could go to a party,” said guitarist Nick Reddy, a senior studio art major at USM.
The band has played in a variety of venues, including a surf boutique and art gallery, basements, bars and a tattoo parlor. No matter where the show is, the goal is always the same: to have fun.
“Hopefully they will want to have fun when we play,” Reddy said. “That’s what I would like. We want people to have a good time.”
“At other shows we’ve played, we usually have a pretty good reaction,” said drummer Sam Shupe , a senior history major. “We have fun, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Their fans responded, as many party-goers hurled themselves off the stage, back into the sweaty, sometimes shirtless, crowd. Even non-metal fans could find solace in the simple pleasures of jumping in a bounce house or enjoying an alcoholic snow cone.
Scofield, who has donned a cardboard costume as Deathbot for the band before, knew how it would be even before the show started. “This is going to be the best night of my life, and I feel it’s going to be a mutual feeling for a lot of people,” Scofield said.
From blowing up hundreds of balloons to setting up the bounce house, Shupe estimated they spent around 10 hours setting up for the event.
“If we’re involved in setting up, we like to add something different to it,” said Shupe. One of the opening bands, Razormaze, traveled from Boston for the show.
“Especially if we’re bringing someone from out of town, we try to at least do something that makes it worth their while and more fun,” Reddy said. For the SPACE Gallery show, this meant Reddy renting a bounce house and snow cone machine and the band buying plenty of leis, balloons and ice. The 2010 film “Piranha” played on the wall from a projector during the show and luau-themed posters surrounded the stage.
This wasn’t the first beach party show either. The band put on a similar show at Blindsight Tattoo for the closing of the parlor last summer.
In Portland, a city filled with ironic cover bands and artists who take themselves too seriously, WARANIMAL is a different breed.
“Being serious isn’t as fun,” Shupe said.
With Reddy screaming songs about skateboarding and Conan the Barbarian and the others headbang along, it’s easy to tell. And offstage, the band is constantly cracking jokes, with Reddy usually as the instigator.
After setting up the inflating the bounce house with the help of SPACE Gallery staff, all three members immediately shed their shoes and jumped in.
“It’s just about partying,” said bassist Conrad Carpenter.
“In other bands we’ve been in, you’ll write a riff and everyone will be like, ‘It’s too ridiculous because we’re serious and we have this serious thing we need to do,’” said Shupe. “This is the band that has no boundary for that.”
The band said songs usually materialize with Reddy playing a riff and the other jamming along. Eventually they write the lyrics. “Some of them are ones I’ve written and some of them are ones I’ve gotten from comic books,” Reddy said, referring to the Conan song about an enchanted sword.
“The lyrics are just about awesome s— and that takes no time at all to think of awesome s— to say,” said Shupe.
“Some of them are written in long car rides,” Carpenter added.
WARANIMAL toured for ten days in January, traveling down to Richmond, Va. and up to Montreal. The band said they made enough on the tour to pay for gas. “And some beer,” added Reddy.
When asked to describe the sound after a practice, the band agreed on two words:
“Party naked,” said Shupe.
“Party naked,” said Carpenter, nodding his head.
“Party naked could be it,” said Reddy, who donned a bright blue sleeveless shirt with the fitting words during the show.
“WARANIMAL doesn’t sounds like anything,” said Carpenter.
“It doesn’t fit in one specific genre,” added Shupe.
“Kind of like Prince,” Reddy said, laughing. “We’re like the Prince of Maine.”
Even how they named the band is slightly irreverent. “Nick and I one night came up with 100 awesome words,” said Shupe. They then wrote the words on bingo wheel balls. “We just rolled the wheel and we would take two at a time and put the words next to each other,” Shupe said.
Eventually “war” and “animal” came out, and they knew they had it. “It was band name bingo,” said Carpenter.
WARANIMAL, who released an EP a year and a half ago, are close to completing their first full-length album; it should be released this summer. The band said they’re definitely going to be touring this summer.
Shupe said he would like to make it to the West Coast and expected the tour to be at least a month long. But don’t expect any over the top shows like the beach show. Reddy said that although he would like to, it will most likely be too difficult to put on large-scale themed shows out of state.
“People talk about how much fun they had, and that’s what it’s all about,” Shupe said. “It’s just fun.”
“We’re trying to make it as crazy as possible,” Reddy said. “There’s just no control. You just have to let it go.”
Bryan Bruchman, SPACE Gallery events manager, said the band assured him that despite the out of control nature of the concert, the crowd would be friendly and that’s what he saw at the show.
“If you fall on the ground you’re going to get picked up and someone [is] going to give you a high five,” Shupe said, smiling.
Bruchman said he would be up for having WARANIMAL return. “I think it was great,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
And for Deathbot, his prediction held true: “Best night of my life,” said Scofield while walking out the door after the show.