The Phantom Tollbooth

Saviour Machine, Wedding Party, and Rackets & Drapes
Edan Productions’s Halloween Show
October 31, 1998
Wonderland Ballroom, Elgin, Illinois
By Linda T. Stonehocker
With contributions from Joe Kopnick, David Staley, Ken Straub, and Joel Thomas
Photographs by Shari Lloyd

Introduction
The Crowd Gathers
The Doors Open
The Show Begins
Racket and Drapes
Wedding Party
Saviour Machine
Saviour Machine play list

Introduction

Whatever else you want to attribute to it, a certain dark elegance pervades all forms of goth music. This made a refurbished two-story ballroom replete with crystal chandeliers, wall scones, and golden braid-trimmed red velvet curtains the ideal setting this past Halloween for a sold-out crowd properly dressed for a dark occasion. At times, the smoke machine obscured the entire room, at others, flames threatened those golden tassels almost 30 feet above the dance floor, but always, the rapt audience closely followed the three Christian goth groups that each unfolded free-standing shows before them.

Christian goth is rarely performed in any setting, so many in attendance traveled long distances to witness the event. One fellow interrupted his honeymoon. Others from the surrounding Chicago suburbs were simply there because Edan Productions was putting on another show. Still others hoped to minister and shed some light on those who would be attracted to the dark concepts of goth. Everyone got what they wanted.

What follows is a first-hand account by some of the audience. Ken Straub is a regular participant of the Saviour Machine Email list, Joseph Kopnick from Wisconsin is a member of the Flaming Fish industrial music list. (Instructions to join both list are in the “Resources” section of The Phantom Tollbooth) Joel Thomas is a new contributor to The Phantom Tollbooth, and David Stanley maintains a Saviour Machine fan page. Taken together, a picture of an unforgettable event emerges.

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The Crowd Gathers

First, the crowd had to arrive. Joseph Kopnick met some of his friends at the airport:

“I pseudo-calmly trot to the entrance of the concourse and come face to face with a Goth's worst nightmare--an airport metal detector! I begin the task of slowly disassembling my outfit piece by piece; necklaces, bracelets, rings, buckles, pins, chains, etc. and place them in the little tray they give you, which I loaded to the point of almost breaking the little thing from the weight. I slide the tray across the table, to the chuckling security guard and walk through, BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! ‘Security check! ALL BLACK,’ yelled the guard, identifying me by the color of my clothing. A 6' 8", bald, and very ugly, angry looking guard comes trouncing out of nowhere and leads me over to this little rubber pad and barks at me to me stand ‘with my arms outstretch and legs a few feet apart’ while he waves his little magic metal detector wand over me. BEEP! Belt buckle. BEEP! Steel toe boots. BEEP! Metal buckle on boot straps. BEEP! An arm chain I forgot about. I figure I'm done and free to go right? So I start to walk away and I hear Mr. Clean got beat with an ugly stick Airport Security Guard call out, ‘Hey! Can I finish!?!’ so I go back and he gives me another once over and lets me go. I look at the clock: 6:49, I HAVE 1 MINUTE!!! So I run down the concourse at light speed, brushing past groggy arriving passengers and hopeful departing passengers, trying to put all my jewelry back on whilst running. ( I don't recommend trying this)”

Saturday morning, after a too-short night shared with 8 of his closest friends in three motel rooms, preparations began:

“. . . out come the eye pencils, mascara, eye shadow, then the girls get their make-up out too and we all have a mass primping session that was a sight to behold, 9 odd folk applying different chemical combinations to their skin, all in the hopes of creating some sort of individualistic aura, but ending up all looking the same. Ahh well, its all in the name of fashion, baby!”

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The Fans
The Doors Open

The weather held, making even an overly-long wait in line pleasant, as Joel Thomas describes:

“Most of the crowd was dressed in gothic regalia for the event, and we met many both beautifully dressed and friendly people in the line while waiting.”

When the doors finally opened, the first stop for many was the Saviour Machine table where their much sought after, rarely found music was sold. Then it was on to the center of the dance floor for a good look at each other’s costumes, a sea of blackness in all textures and shades--velvets, satins, silks, matte jerseysthe fabric’s darkness accentuated by the stark white makeup many wore. Granted, there were the rebels in fav band T-shirts, but the rest of the crowd had dressed for the dark romantic fun of a night of Christian goth in sanctified vampire-wear.

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The Show Begins

Pastor Dave of Sanctuary Church, San Diego, California, Saviour Machine’s home base, led the suddenly still crowd in prayer. “Good things come to those who wait.” A good word for someone associated with the headlining artist responsible for Edan’s uncharacteristic delay--the sound check took hours!

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Racket and Drapes

Kandy of Rackets and DrapesParting curtains revealing a tabloid of whiteface Racket and Drapes amid an opaque smoke cloud finally rewarded the patience of the crowd. Thunderous rumble via twin fifteen-foot speaker stacks established the base sound level at “loud.” Subsequent acts would elevate it. Denver based Racket and Drapes play goth of the hard metal/industrial variety. Purists objected to the crowd’s response (“... since when do people bounce up and down at a gothic show?” complained Joe Kopnick) but the pounding sound soon ground down and shaped the audience into a single-minded horde shot through by lead singer/guitarist Kandy’s riffs and vocals. Like all good industrial music, Racket’s melodies change vibration frequency not pitch, and true to heavy metal, they managed to trash the stage with the only material close at hand; nearly a case of bottled water.

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Wedding Party

The Wedding PartyAfter a quick mop up and set change, David Stanley reports: “Wedding Party then filled the stage next with beautiful dances before the Lord and thought-provoking lyrics.” Crouching figures draped in netting huddled before the closed curtain. A veiled bride in white made her way to the center as the netting-shrouded dancers spring writhing to their feet. The curtains parted to reveal a lit candelabrum and the bride (Sheri Watters, lead singer) unveiled, her bleached out, spiked hair drawing all eyes before everything onstage was obscured by dense white smoke. There was a show going on up there somewhere, as the audience merged with those onstage in the same cloud. Joe Kopnick explains:  “Wedding Party was beautiful to say the least...[the dancers] brought a much needed touch of elegance and grace to the entire show.”

Joel Thomas elaborates: “Their music is dark, beautiful, and very emotional...Sherri Luckey Watters and her husband, William, shared the vocals, and both were simply amazing. Their voices can at one moment express strength, hope, and victory, and then the next contain frustration, weakness, and vulnerability.” The set ended with Watters in a blue-white light, improvising wispy, ethereal praise.

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Saviour Machine
Saviour Machine

Two strong opening acts did nothing to satiate the crowds thirst for mystic symbolism as they continued to stand in eager anticipation of the headliners. Pastor Dave spoke briefly during the lengthy set up after encouraging everyone to sit on the floor, a welcomed break. Had space permitted, although the show fell into the rock category, concert seating throughout would have been a better option for all but the tallest, whose view of the stage was often blocked. However, the minor discomfort of a six-hour stand did nothing to dampen fans enthusiasm. Ken Straub described the show thusly:

“The opening line in the song “The Night” states, “The events about to unfold are beyond comprehension.” This is my take on the whole show. Think of your greatest expectation for a Saviour Machine show and you won’t even be close to what happened Halloween night. In fact, take that expectation and raise it to the tenth power and you might be getting close.”

David Staley carefully chronicled the performance:

Saviour Machine“It is so much more than a mere performance. It is a surreal spiritual excursion. It is a platform to bombard your senses with sight and sound. It is the chance to see prophetic symbolism in action and be both blessed and convicted. It is a rare opportunity to see dedication to God through art. I could go on and on, but for those who have seen Saviour Machine live, they know that they have seen an important piece of history and know that they will never forget what they witnessed.”

Especially memorable was Clayton’s use of symbols, such as flags. David Staley describes, “. . . a number of classics of of Legend  Part 1 were delivered with power leading up to the darkness of seeing Clayton move around the stage with the flags of Israel and Palestine while the words, “behold, the killing fields” filled our ears. . . The highlight of this segment was the burning of the United Nations flag. It was consumed in an instant by an intense glow of swiftly rising flames, splitting the flag in half and creating two pillars of fire which quickly disappeared in a haze of smoke.”

Saviour MachineThe symbolism of that flag burning was overshadowed for some audience members by safety concerns. Joe Kopnick explains: “When Eric burnt the flag, I thought it was going to burn the entire building down! Flames were licking at the ropes and curtains that hung just out of sight of the crowd. I think the temperature in the front raised about 65 degrees after burning that thing.” But for many, it was the kind of edgy recklessness that defines true rock ‘n’ roll, no matter what the genre.

A solid performance of Clayton’s apocalyptic themes demanded an encore. As David Staley explains:

“We knew it wasn’t over. After a short break the speakers came alive with the words from “A Prophecy” and the chorus of “I Am.” . . . Finally Eric made his appearance dressed in white, and the band began to play “The Holy Spirit.” The whole mood of the concert had been altered from the dark foreboding nature of the terror and struggle that will be increasing on the earth to the ultimate hope that will be revealed. It was beautiful.”

“The Bride of Christ” and “Rapture: the Seventh Seal” followed leading to the ultimate ending, an ending that nobody was expecting. A shofar sounded over the speakers, and Clayton sang the words, “The kingdom of heaven is surely at hand.” He was over by the speaker stacks on stage right. . . He seemed to pause for a moment, as if contemplating, then in an instant, he rose and began climbing the speaker, singing continuously. When he got to the top of the stack and stood up, there seemed to be a mixture of astonishment and concern for Clayon’s safety, especially when he began to breech the space between the speaker stack and the balcony railing.”

“The balcony circles the perimeter of the Ballroom. Eric crossed over the railing and was firmly planted on it, continuing to sing music from “The Lamb.” “Set us free” boomed over the crowd, stirring the hearts of those who watched. Many clapped, many raise their hands in worship, many simply stood soaking up the images and words, slowly turning around in place, following Clayton as he rounded the room along the railing of the balcony. He took his time. There was no rush. This was a moment that was to be cherished and memorized.”

Saviour Machine“Clayton eventually rounded the entire room, singing from the balcony, and came to the speaker stack on stage left. In the same way he had left the stage, he returned to it. all the while singing, he stepped over the railing an onto the top of the speaker stack. He made his way down onto the stage, rejoining the band, and accompanied by inspired cheers from the audience!”

Perhaps Joe Kopnick summed up fans feelings about the show the best: “Well what can you say about Saviour Machine that hasn’t been said? . . . The music was beautiful, and dark and stunning. No surprise here, it was an awesome, perfect performance (again).”

Others less impressed, were heard to remark, “I’ve seen David Bowie, and Eric Clayton is no David Bowie!” but at midnight on Halloween, there were few willing to argue the point.

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Saviour Machine play list (with thanks to David Stanley):

 Eric dressed in Black

Encore, Eric dressed In White Return to the top