John 5 & The Creatures Haunt Highline Ballroom, NYC 3-16-16

John William Lowery, best known as John 5, could very well be considered a guitar icon. Initially a session musician for the likes of David Lee Roth, and earlier a hired gun for Lita Ford, he soon went on to join up with Marilyn Manson in 1998. A part of Marilyn Manson five years, and one of the band’s most acclaimed albums, 2003’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, John 5 took the time to invest in solo material. Always known to turn heads backstage before shows with whomever he played with, his off-the-wall style ranging from Metal, to Rock, to Country, to Bluegrass, it came as no shock that his 2004 debut solo album, Vertigo, was a mixed bag of treats. Quickly striking the interest of Rob Zombie, John 5 found himself back in the saddle of a band once more come 2005, a place where he has called home for over a decade now. Building the ultimate musician/friend relationship with Rob Zombie, John 5 has been in a good place, balancing touring with the band, and recording his own solo material as well.

Last releasing his album Careful with That Axe in 2014, John 5 has spread out solo shows here and there when possible between international Rob Zombie touring and the recording sessions for the band’s forthcoming album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. Now, prior to a Summer ahead with Rob Zombie touring alongside Disturbed and then Korn, John 5 treat his niche fanbase to some more solo gigs. That is why, even on the blustery, rainy evening of Wednesday, March 16th, followers came out in numbers to bare witness to John 5’s Devil Knows Your Name Tour at the lavish Highline Ballroom. One of the final shows of his East Coast run, he and his band, called The Creatures, were ready to put on a Rock show that had no boundaries.

Setting the table for the evening were two local supporting acts by the name of Inherit the Earth and Ten Ton Mojo. Up first was the band Inherit the Earth, who made the trip into Manhattan from Bay Shore, Long Island. Consisting of Lee Leuken (vocals), Steve Mullinax (bass), Peter Zambuto (drums), Charlie Bozzo (guitar), and Vincenzo Voccia Jr (guitar), the band consists of members of other known Long Island acts looking to hone a new sound of Hard Rock with some Metal vibes. What was unique about the set was, since the band is in the process of recording an album, many of the songs were so new they did not have names yet. In a way, the audience was partaking in a group jam session, and many were digging what they heard. They will continue to play shows locally on Long Island, so be sure to check them out.

The second local act for the night was New York City’s own Ten Ton Mojo. The band, consisting of Ernie Papp (vocals), Scott Lano (guitar), Gabe Mera (guitar), Paul Kane (drums), and Chris Laubis (bass/backup vocals), brought a Hard Rock, Southern Blues vibe with them to the stage. From the start, they were very energized by the audience when they played. Adding to the excitement, they were shooting live during their newest single “American Honey” while on stage, perhaps for a live video. The band’s next scheduled show is on June 18th at Bowery Ballroom when they open for The Dirty Pearls, which is a show that is bound to be a blast.

As the crowd started moving forward in the stylish club to gain their spots, the John 5 stage set began to take form. In the back of the stage was a digital backdrop with a white skull and crossbones on it, with a 5 on the top of its head. There was also two pop-ups featuring images of John 5 with his notorious bleach white hair, a huge black X across his face, and glowing eyes, which were placed on both sides of the stage. In addition, Rodger Carters’ green glitter drum kit sat on a riser in the back with a few huge sirens around it.

Overwhelmed with anticipation for the show to begin, John 5 was soon introduced by veteran Heavy Metal Disc Jockey and host of VH1’s That Metal Show, Eddie Trunk, who was waxing poetic about the axeman’s abilities. Soon after, The Creatures – Bassist Ian Ross and Drummer Rodger Carter – entered the stage as a Horror based intro played. Finally, John 5 entered and the audience went wild as he came out dressed in a black lace veil over his face, along with a long black jacket and a fur over it. Lighting the room up soloing, soon after, bass and drums provided a steady percussion section.

As John 5 changed guitars, he took off his veil, showing off his black painted lips and pale, white-painted face, as the set lifted off into “First Victim.” Completely enthralled in the performance, John 5’s whole being embodied his guitar, as if becoming the guitar. Making playing look easy, while his band accompanies him with pure excitement, green lights and blue smoke came up from the riser as the song concluded. Moving into the amazing song “The Flight of the Vulcan Kelly,” it did not only show John 5’s soloing chops, but Ross’ strong bass abilities while Carter played the drums in an upbeat tempo and double time.  Then, as “Villisca” began with a steady Hard Rock vibe, John 5 lit up the room, literally, when he brought out a guitar with hundreds of flashing white light bulbs to add to the theatrics.

Keeping the audience entertained, a shotgun sound effect played and a few seconds later John 5 attacked with an in-your-face hard strumming section for “This is My Rifle.” Displaying the ability to play heavy music then transition with ease into a steady Punk vibe, Ross and Carter held it all together through the whirlwind track that ended how it began, with a shotgun blast. With the crowd going wild, the fan-favorite was followed with “Sin,” which hit with a slow haunting guitar picking, which had chills running down many spines. Soon the track sped up into a full blown Heavy Metal piece that saw John 5 dazzle with a unique composition and impeccable instrumentation.

With the band departed from the platform, the interlude of “El Cucucy” laid the path for the full song as John 5 returned with some beautiful Flamenco like guitar playing. Adding a Mexican-Salsa flair, Carter uses a rainstick to provide a sound like a rattlesnake, and the song picked up. The only thing missing was a traditional Flamenco dancer or a good ol’ Western face-off. Adding to the Western Blue-grass vibe, Jerry Reed’s “Jiffy Jam” had John 5’s fingers flying over the strings with ease as he stood all alone on the stage under the spotlight. To the surprise of fans, he broke into The Adams Family theme toward the end of the song, which had fans smiling and clapping. It was a perfect way to add some more fun to the show, and knowing John 5, quirkier surprises were probably still ahead.

With The Creatures back on stage with John 5, they went into “Portrait of Sidney Sloane,” which features heavy riffs and some Funk. As John 5 showed no signs of slowing down, he dazzled on guitar some more and followed the song with a blistering guitar solo as everyone watched in amazement. Allowing little time for people to catch their breath, “Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell” was followed by not-yet-released song “Behind the Nut.” Taking the time to converse with the audience, John 5 thanked everyone for coming out, and said, “Those were a lot of notes,” referring to the range of music notes tapped thus far. He also states that he will be back with Rob Zombie after this mini tour and that the new track was inspired by his love of the television show Hee Haw.

Following a brief interlude, John 5 returned on stage, this time with a glowing multi-color mouth grille, which he wears all smiles during “Mad Mother Party.” At one point, he had the crowd clapping their hands in the air, and upon the song’s conclusion, John 5 even threw out his grille to a lucky member of the crowd. Then, coming on with another heavy track, was “Black Grass Plague,” which not only featured more astounding guitar work by John 5, but also his talent in playing a banjo and a ukulele. As if that was not enough, the evening ended with a razor sharp rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” before a medley of many famous Rock songs including The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me Now,” Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,“ and Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train,” among many others. This grand finale truly hit home with all fans of all genres of music, and as John 5 and The Creatures faded into the fog, everyone was roaring for more.

John 5 may be one of the hardest working men in show business. He seems to eat, breathe, and sleep his craft. His performance at The Highline Ballroom proved this as he displayed technical skill, as well as showmanship. Judging by some of his influences, including The Monkees, KISS, Jimi Hendrix, and Yngwie Malmsteen, it easy to see the guitar monster he has become. With his mini solo tour now over, he and Rob Zombie will embark on some festival dates starting April 8th and going through until May 29th. Rob Zombie, Korn, and In This Moment will then kick off the Return of the Dreads Tour come July 19th in Englewood, CO. As for John 5, the ever busy guitarist has another new solo album slated for release later this year, entitled Guitars, T!ts, And Monsters, so keep a look out for a release date.

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