Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! The incantation of the name frees the monster trapped beneath a carefully constructed city of Astroturf green and cardboard cut-outs of houses and SUVs.
The same applies for the first three “whoas” raked out at a Blind Assassins show. Just as the crazy striped-suited character emerges from another dimension and wreaks havoc on unsuspecting suburbanites, the opening chords of the Assassins’ debut album Six Feet Under crawl out from the grave to grab hold of Calgary’s punk rock scene.
Sitting on their matching sofa and loveseat set in a pseudo-suburban living room in northwest Calgary, Skully Tompkins (lead vocals and guitar) and Tasha Armstrong (keys and backup vocals) could be playing Ozzie and Harriet. But when Tompkins moves to lift his cat Charlie off the piano sitting to his left, the tattoo creeps out from under his sleeve, and there’s a glimpse of the sinister side beneath his polite exterior.
“You can be a sort of happy-go-lucky, nice guy during the day,” Tompkins admits. “Our music is the counter-balance to that. Everybody’s got a darker side.”
From the eye patch covering the skull’s socket on their logo, to the costumes they don for their favourite holiday, Halloween, Blind Assassins like to switch it up and strip it down. A rock ‘n roll band of many masks, each member serves their time slaving in the workforce by day, and unleashes on the punk rock scene by night.
Tompkins dressed in Beetlejuice’s duds for Halloween, but he morphs more regularly from his broadcast technician/student alter-ego into the band’s frontman. When Armstrong finds her oil-and-gas marketing spin speak seeping into her everyday conversations, she looks to her shows with the Assassins and Rum Runner to release her stress in a safe environment.
Miles Cantafino trades teching snowboards for fingering his bass after hours, both with the Assassins and Deadman’s Hand, and appreciates the lack of a dress code.
“There’s no uniforms–you can go there and have your hair down to your ass, you can have no hair, you can have emo hair,” he says. “It’s about going out and sweating it out.”
Chad Morisson leaves his surveying job to drum wherever the Assassins set up, at one of the many venues where the Calgary Beer Core, a self-proclaimed group of punk rockers, misfits, and hardcore youths, puts on shows. While the Beer Core has no official membership list or initiation rites, they consider themselves a tight group which organizes the line-up for an event, but then leaves each of the individual bands to promote themselves, from putting up posters to pushing merch to strumming up word of mouth.
“It’s going out and partying and having a good time,” explains Morisson.
“It’s not climbing over each other to get to the top,” finishes Tompkins. “It’s like the mosh pit. It’s pure anarchy and violence, but at the same time, you’re looking out for each other. If you fall down, nobody’s going to stomp on your head.”
There’s a place for everyone at the Blind Assassins’ Beer Core shows, no matter what your secret identity–whether you’re a student, a downtown exec or Tim Horton’s coffee pusher. Rip off your respectable demeanor, claw your way into the fray, and unleash your inner tattooed demon.