Sky Cries Mary

By Nanine Shorter

After a couple of gutsy stand-up comics and a lounge metal band completed their parts of the Thanksgiving Eve entertainment at Cherokee Blues/alternative Club, Seattle's Sky Cries Mary freaked into view and then vanished just when the trip was getting really good.

First things first and credit where credit is due: lt's hard enough for a group of musicians to play to a near-empty room, but can you imagine how it feels to be a rookie comic and try to yank laughs from a handful of warm bodies whose mental content reads "Where is the BAND, man? I didn't COME here to see no freakin' COMEDIANS. Is It Thanksgiving yet?" The guys tried hard, but the tiny audience was stone cold.

As for the "warm-up" band, Nashville's Raksasha, um, I can't think of a better band to book alongside SCM. I'd love to hear what went through the promoter's mind when he/she dreamed up a Raksasha-SCM bill. "Yeah, we've got this mytho-psychedelic neo-Haight Ashbury headliner, let's see, how about a nice guitar army kinda sound for contrast, mmm hmm!" Raksasha's all-original set left no doubt this foursome knows its genre and how to stick to it.

Now, Sky Cries Mary. Pick out all those shards of steel stuck in your teeth after Raksasha and grab your favorite hallucinogen. But you don't really need one, 'cause this troupe supplies all the mood you could ask for. Six guys and a female co-vocalist, plus the essential visual media guy managing movie and slide projectors and lights and stuff. That includes the incense cache.

What we have here is a dramatist husband and artist wife (Roderick and Anisa Romero) teaming up on vocals, backed by a keyboardist, guitarist, bassist, drummer/percussionist and the usual samplist. Samplist? He's the guy that used to be SCM's light and sound engineer and now he's their, uh, sampler and mixer. He 's known as DJ Fallout and spent the evening pushing buttons and whipping disks in and out of his keyboards and other sundry equipment.

When talking about SCM, you have to talk about the visual realm, because it's a large part of their scene. I don't know enough about visual media platforms to know if his system was incredibly state-of-the-art or incredibly obsolete and therefore all the more charming, but it worked. Well.

With ever-changing hypnotic images covering the blank cloth backdrop that framed two sides of the stage, Anisa and Roderick Romero and their band of merry men took us all on an enticing visual-aural journey ... just when I thought I was on the edge of The Answer To It All, it was all over. It could have been 30 minutes later, or it could have been Persia in 437 B. C. Or Seattle in 1995 A. D. Hard telling after the mood trip that was SCM's show.

Anisa Romero's presence all but made the show. Long, dark hair, black lace bodysuit with a cape, black above-the-elbow gloves, a lovely tattoo on her upper arm, wide rhinestone bracelet. And a strong yet ethereal voice.

Hubby Roderick was no background persona himself, making his initial appearance adorned with a remarkably eerie goat-horn headdress covered with gold lame. He hovered over his mike most of the time, going into an off-beat elephant-sway mode when he got too far away from home base. Anisa was definitely the show.

The set consisted mainly ofcuts from SCM's latest CD, This Timeless Turning, but I'd like to have heard more of the band's repertoire dating back to 1987, when Roderick Romero founded SCM.

Effects, drama and sampling aside, the musicians in the band showed skill. Although there weren't any solos —this was more of a theatrical presentation than a concert — the sound was clear enough to tell that the drummer, bass player and guitarist could hang in the real world. The drummer in particular had quite a nice touch. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on whether you're a purist, the keyboards got lost in the synthesized effects. But then, this is a space-rock band. Synthesizers 'R Us.

All in all, pretty trippy and not quite what we've come to expect from a band from Seattle.