- Gary Copeland
VALIENT THORR with Gypsyhawk, Ramming Speed, American Party Machine
9 p.m. Thursday, July 4 | Will’s Pub, 1042 N. Mills Ave. | willspub.org | $11-$14
While managing a KFC in Minnesota in 2011, a Valient Thorr fan nicknamed “the Colonel” programmed his restaurant’s exterior LED sign to display an unusual endorsement.
First, the logo for the North Carolina-based five-piece appeared, then slides of text intermittently relayed a message: “Ten years ago, they came from the planet Venus … to mate with our women … but decided to stay and … P-A-R-T-Y! … and rock the ever-loving shit outta this planet.”
This was followed by frontman Valient Himself’s catchphrase (“You know what I’m talking about!”), a few blurry band pictures, a concert plug and an alternate Valient Thorr insignia in place of KFC’s straight-laced Sanders. But “the Colonel” is hardly the only one of his kind.
Himself estimates there are 60-plus “Thorrior” fan chapters strewn across North America and Europe. The tribe’s customary greeting is “Alahoyus,” while traditional garb consists of a sleeveless denim jacket with the group’s logo stenciled on the back (a design that deserves to be carved into high school desks through infinity). Like the Colonel, other colorful-sounding “Super Thorriors” exist, including Ohio’s Dawn Owar and Kansas City’s Tim Thorr. But even as Himself mentions these notables, he downplays distinctions.
“No matter what Thorrior we’re talking about, they’re super important,” Himself says.
The main source of Valient Thorr’s appeal is their stupendously entertaining and energetic live experience. As good-spirited hard rock, punk and heavy metal riffs flow, Himself throws his body around the stage and into the crowd with a Dervish’s enthusiasm. The man’s banter – heavy on non sequiturs and comical rambling – is unimpeachable, and he comes across as ridiculous enough for all of this to seem like one giant gag.
But focusing on that layer discounts the band’s edge as pointedly political, “power to the people”-championing firebrands. The left-leaning Himself plays antagonist to American institutions and power brokers – the military-industrial complex, the corporations who’ve run the nation into financial straits, the warmongers who’ve dispatched soldiers to Iraq – through rants and songs alike. “Immaculate Consumption,” the opening track of Thorr’s new record Our Own Masters, launches with the lines, “People spending money that they don’t have/Getting owned by imaginary credit.”
Fundamentally, Valient Thorr look and play like a metal band more than a punk one, but there’s no doubt which side they use to butter their ideological bread. That said, there’s a solid chance that a stranger to Thorr will see the extraneous spectacle – the jackets, the prodigious beards, the quips – and interpret their views as a joke. Himself understands that risk but is inspired by how George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Jon Stewart all leavened hard political points with humor.
“Behind the comedy, they actually are trying to convey a point that sometimes politicians are too scared to say. They’re trying to say the truth, and it’s funny because a lot of the times, their punch lines are the truth. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he says.
“You have to go at some of this shit lightheartedly, because if you don’t, and you realize the truth is there, then it’s so fucking bleak, it would just depress the hell out of people, and nobody comes to a rock & roll show to be depressed.”