See! Their ripping flesh!

Hear! Their moans and groans!

Feel! Your Stomach turn!


It's about 7pm. It's a little chilly, but still a nice fall evening. Soon it will be dark. But for the time being, the mystery of the grounds of Theatre Bizarre are exposed by daylight. If there is one place on Earth that is almost as impressive in the daylight as it is at night, it's Theatre Bizarre. If anything, seeing this expansive, well kept, labor of love in the day time just manages to make it that much more impressive. Real people made this. Real people maintain it. Real people are the creative power behind what is possibly the best Halloween party in the entire country, let alone Detroit. Sure, every bar and club in the city takes out full page ads in the alternative weeklies advertising the "biggest and best Halloween party in town." It's all lies. Nothing can compete with Theatre Bizarre.

The boys from Child Bite are assembling, unloading, looking around the grounds at the possibilities... The location for this particular Single Barrell Detroit shoot is about as perfect a match that exists between a band and a place. Theatre Bizarre and Child Bite = meant to be. They are no strangers to these grounds - the band played during last year's Theatre Bizarre Halloween Masquerade. The sounds of their heavy-weight-indie-rock-via-travelling-freak-show pummelled the audience of costumed party goers. It was the perfect soundtrack to an event that can only be described as "otherworldly."

But today is a different entity - same band, slightly altered line up, same venue, different feel. Instead of fire breathers and contortionists, the most animated creatures here are a couple of pups who clearly think of the Theatre Bizarre grounds as home, and a few people with face paint ala The Crow who have dropped by to practice their sword juggling routine to Portishead's "Glory Box." Otherwise, most of the people here are hard at work - sawing and hammering and building. They don't look like circus freaks - they just look like a bunch of contractors.

The band sets up for their first song in the midway aross from the Scaredy Cat Club It's a stripped down set up - Matt Rickle has a few basic drums in his kit - a couple of small cymbals, Shawn Knight plays a tiny organ and some joysticks. Sean Clancy has a bass with a tiny practice sized amp, and Brandon Sczomak plays acoustic guitar. But will a stripped down Child Bite be as intriguing as an "exposed by day time" Theatre Bizarre? The band jumps right into "Paws Perilous" and the answer is obvious: yes. "Winner of hearts; dropper of names and clues/ He has impressive collections; he is impressive" sings Knight as he pounds on the little organ, occasionally yanking on the vintage joysticks to add a distorted, classic video game sound to the song. Child-Bite-As-Space-Invaders.

First song down. It's now dark... The air is colder. The band is setting up for the next number. It is obvious they are not bothered by the cold. Their enthusiasm and good nature is infectious. While some fine-tuning happens, Nirvana songs are started and stopped, the guys make jokes. Sczomak starts the next song off with a Spanish-style guitar solo. He's standing under a light alone, in front of the space where the contortionist usually hangs via hooks in her skin. He is wearing a suit with a ruffled shirt. David Lynch would like this. The rest of the band is across the midway now, right in front of the Scaredy Cat Club. They slam into the song as soon as the intro is over. It's appropriately titled "Never-Ending Mountain Slammer." Knight plays a tiny keyboard through a white plastic trash bag. Though it appears to be for some kind of weird sound aesthetic, in fact, it's because this little keyboard was involved in a sewer back up that happened in Knight's basement. The keyboard still works, but the keys are covered in a substance that looks like mold. Or worse. The bag is interfering with the mics. He rips it off. Lays his bare hands on the dirty keys and keeps playing. Now that's dedication.

Now even the most outdoorsy among the band and Single Barrel crew can't deny that it's officially dark and cold. People are shifting foot to foot, some obviously wishing they had warmer coats on. But things heat up when you light them on fire. And a couple metal barrels filled with branches are quickly set aflame by the roller coaster. Of course there is a roller coaster - semi-dismantled, ready for thrill seeking ghosts. The band sets up for their next song. The barrels are burning hot and strong - hot pops and crackles send little sparks lazily showering down like fire flies. Somebody has the good sense to get a few giant tubs of water. Just in case.

The band throws themselves into "Ape Along." Things are getting hotter. and crazier. And how could they not? The band climbs the coaster and jumps around - both because of the energy they're creating - and to attempt escape from the sparks and flames of the energy that's surrounding them. Nobody likes to tempt fire. Except the man without pants. Who, well... see for yourself. The just-in-case-water was a good idea. The kind of publicity that Single Barrel Detroit wants to get isn't linked to being responsible for burning Theatre Bizarre - one of Detroit's many hidden treasures - to the ground. Though Theatre Bizarre would undoubtedly rise like a Demon-Phoenix from the ashes, even stronger than before. You can't keep a good monster down.

- Laura Witkowski
Just across the street from the recently vacated State Fairgrounds, in one of the most neglected neighborhoods in Detroit, stands one of Detroit's most unique locations. A fenced-in collection of six houses, yards and community alleyways serves as the stage for one of the city's most fascinating experiences. This once a year event just before Halloween, Theatre Bizarre, is dubbed "The Greatest Masquerade on Earth" and lives up to the billing in every way possible. Sideshow performers, musicians, burlesque dancers, puppeteers, and suspension artists perform throughout the grounds in the shadow of a homemade roller coaster, pyrotechnics and multiple signs, stages, banners and structures. The grounds is the masterwork of Detroit illustrator, John Dunivant, ringleader, Ken Poirer and an oft-assembled army of volunteers that bring the set to life each year, something new and more amazing each time.

The event, now in its eleventh year, is the epitome of Detroit's DIY, we'll-make-it-happen spirit. Apparently after Dunivant was told he was no longer allowed to have his Halloween party in his studio at Russell Industrial Center, he teamed up with Poirier to create this event and the rest is history.

Due to complications with the City Government, this year's Theatre Bizarre event was forced to move off-grounds to the Fillmore Theatre, to the understandable dismay of around three thousand costumed ticketholders. But, true the spirit of the Theatre Bizarre family - the show must go on – and look for the event to return on-site with a vengeance (and a Ferris wheel!) in 2011, where they will once again invite you to "thrill to the obscene from dusk til dawn."
Never Ending Mountain Slammer

[Download MP3]

Paws Perilous

[Download MP3]

Ape Along

[Download MP3]
Dan DeMaggio