Despite wishing I had the opportunity to squeeze in a John Carpenter movie marathon before Thursday evening at ACL Live’s Moody Theater, it didn’t prevent me from sitting upright in my seat, absolutely spellbound at Carpenter’s genius to create ominous and memorable compositions across the entire forty year span of his career.
John Carpenter’s show opened up with Escape From New York’s main title, eliciting cheers and excitement from the audience that remained consistent throughout his near hour and a half set. Joining him onstage included the backup band for Tenacious D, as well as his son, Cody Carpenter, on lead synthesizer and godson Daniel Davies on lead guitar. Spanning material from 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13’s main title to his Lost Themes II album released earlier this year, Carpenter performed distinct favorites as well as die-hard fans’ picks, closing with In the Mouth of Madness’ theme song and “Christine Attacks (Plymouth Fury)” as the encore’s ender. The show surpassed far more than a standard rock concert as the crowd revisited renowned Carpenter’s films that captured their child and teenage nightmares and cult action scenes that were prominently displayed on a giant backdrop with extended panels behind the six-piece band. This being Carpenter’s first live tour playing his film tracks, he had no qualms about displaying playful banter with his fans, including whipping out a pair of cool black shades right before delving into They Live’s “Coming to L.A.”.
Dispersed intermittently throughout his performance were songs off of Lost Themes I and II, juxtaposing calmer visual stimuli to the more frequent high-paced antics and universally recognized horrors from his films. Tracks like “Vortex”, “Distant Dream” and “Virtual Survivor” were combined with violet and red hues, tranquilly pulsating in the background and changing color to the music’s tempo. Without discernable movie stills in conjunction with his more recent tracks, the music allowed the audience to paint their respective and private horror films within their own minds, while still maintaining Carpenter’s prominent nostalgic synth aesthetic.
John Carpenter’s performance allowed each of us to reminisce on the fear and creativity each of his films and scores conjured within us upon first viewing, or perhaps allowed some new and unaware fans to explore his vast array of work as a director and composer. Before executing his haunting looping staccato trill for Halloween’s theme song, Carpenter declared the one thing both old and new fans knew to hold absolute truth – “Horror movies will live forever.”
Trish Connelly is the Austin-based guru who does booking and promoting at Cheer Up Charlies under The Nothing Song. She’s always down to collaborate and plan a show or event in town. She’s an expert with mixtapes (for all musicians out there you’ll want to send her your stuff!), and making connections with the cool kids. She may have a tad obsession with comics and Corgies, but she keeps it under control. You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.