Crowds swelled at the OKC Farmers Public Market, waiting to enter the 2010 Carnality Ball when a handful of Bible-thumping protesters with bullhorns set up shop across the street. Hellfire-and-brimstone Scripture was volleyed at scantily clad women and drag queens, but members of the avant-garde band Of the Tower stormed out in costume, banging drums and shouting back with a bullhorn they’d borrowed.
After an hour of having their evangelizing answered with improvised poetry and music, the protest ended, leaving the revelers to their “sin.”
“It came out of thin air so quickly because we had a natural tendency to do those things, to pull public pranks,” said drummer Todd Plunkett. “That was the point that solidified what we wanted Of the Tower to become: a kind of spontaneous, improvisational, performance-artist band. That was more fulfilling for us than the show we did.”
In the year and a half since, Of the Tower has explored evocative and shocking performance art to enhance its music’s impact. Front man David Goad decided it was time to take the concept to its full potential for Saturday’s “Halloween spectacle” at VZD’s.
If we play for 50 people, 48 scratch their heads.
“I want the catharsis of the music represented by the expression and the choreography,” said Goad of his fourth-wall-breaking plans. “It’s right there in front of you rather than just a band onstage. There’s a mixture of fear and anticipation that I’d like to instill in the audience.”
He admitted a danger of alienating audience members, but felt it was time to distinguish Of the Tower as not just another dark-wave act.
“We’ve even talked about doing things that are more happenings,” Plunkett said, mentioning a junkyard show that might include “blowing up a car or something. Things like that are never going to get you on MTV, and if we play for 50 people, we might have 48 scratching their heads. But then there are those two people coming out of the audience to tell us they were waiting for this forever.”
Although the group may appeal to a niche market, Goad said it’s important for people to see someone in town doing this sort of thing.
“In Oklahoma, people get stuck in this routine,” he said. “They do their 9-to-5, they come home and have kids, go to LifeChurch and get bored. They start experimenting with what’s around them, whether drugs or swinging. There is not a lot here that speaks to that despair … but it’s an important part of Oklahoma culture.”
Photo by Doug Schwarz