What can happen to A band in
two years? A lot if it's the Screamers -- a flashy techno-punk quartet
that was one of the most exciting and celebrated bands on the early
new-wave scene in town. Because it performed so rarely, the Screamers
almost operated as guerrilla raiders who popped up with all sorts
of new ideas that left clubgoers and other musicians dazzled while
the band itself huddled away thinking of new approaches.
Looking like a Kafkaesque everyman, the charismatic
Tomata duPlenty rushed about the stage with the neurotic intensity
of a man one step ahead of the men in white. At least, that's how
it was two years ago.
Now the Screamers, as described by remaining members
DuPlenty and K.K., is comprised of up to 35 people, all of whom
contributed to the "Palace of Variety'' production that will be
unveiled at the Whisky Thursday to Saturday. The new personnel includes
writers, composers, stage directors, video technicians, actors,
dancers, set designers and musicians. The list is seemingly endless.
What is even more interesting is that nobody is locked into just
K.K. explains: "If we're still to be considered
a band then we're more like a big band or a John Philip Sousa thing.
We've got all these people doing crossover things. Nobody is just
a bass player. A person has to be a bass player and an actor and
a director and a staging assistant. He has to do everything."
What do actors, staging assistants, dancers and
video technicians have to do with a band playing the Whisky? The
answer to that lies in the Screamers' adoption of a mixed-media
format where live performances are complemented by video sequences
played on the new large screen at the Whisky. In facts, the only
Screamers-in-the-flesh, according to DuPlenty, will be himself and
K.K. "The live portion of the show is basically me and K.K. doing
a history of America in show business. It's very glamorous. There's
a lot of dancing."
The importance of the video "mini- musicals" and
their interplay with the live show cannot be emphasized enough.
The on-screen segments are not mere garnish to the meal but represent
a main course in the Screamers' entertainment cookbook.
Much of the band's activity in the last two
years has centered on developing a combined live/video production
that they can take on the road.
K.K. and DuPlenty believe videos will free
them from the endless repetition that most bands must endure to
survive "The club scene is a very slow evolu- tion, '' says DePlently
''It's real tragic- people trapped in small careers."
Adds K.K.: "People play the same thing over
and over again in hopes of getting a record contract which will
in turn harness them to playing the same thing over and over again
for the next two years to still a different audience. You wind
up with a situation like the Kinks, who are still playing their
1965 hits to yet another younger audience. Doing short things
on video frees you from this because the videos themselves can
play the same pieces of material for 20 years while you yourself
go on to develop fresh presentations."
A GO-GO ADDENDUM: The new video screen at the
Whisky won't be the only new addition to the club debuting at
the Screamers show. In a touch of in- spired '60s revisionism,
the club is bring- ing back the go-go dancers as a per- manent