In my forty-eight years of life, I think I may have gone to a total of four concerts, Van Halen (in my teen years), Bush, the Gin Blossoms (in college), and a Jo Dee Messina (free concert) concert in the late 90s. I never really got into the crowds of concerts, it just wasn’t appealing to me. As a great many things in my life, that has changed with meeting Karl.
Listening to him tell me stories about the small venues he saw some of his favorite bands got me thinking about my own experiences. The passion of him talking about meeting the members and how being there, front and center, at a show was so ethereal for him made me want to have an experience like that. Then he introduced me to The Birthday Massacre. That was when my desire to be at a concert shifted to something I wanted to do, to experience. The Birthday Massacre (TBM) was the perfect band for it.
The Birthday Massacre: A History
The year was 1999, the land – London, Ontario, Canada. Three friends decided to make a band. It started when Michael Rainbow had been talking with Sara ‘Chibi’ Taylor and decided they should form a band. The band was born but at the time was known as Imagica. They decided to change their name to one of their earlier songs – The Birthday Massacre, that song would go on to be called “Happy Birthday.”
Since their beginnings, the band has released nine studio albums. Their music has been described as a cross between new wave revival and goth rock with touches of dark wave thrown in. The band has been quoted as taking cues from some of their favorite bands, Depeche Mode, Creature Feature, The Cure, Jack off Jill, and their current touring partner Julien-K. Whatever you call it, the band loves making music for their fans.
This is a band that has used the internet to their advantage throughout their career. Unlike so many other bands who talked down about Napster, TBM decided to monopolize on its popularity and distributed their music for free. They also created their own website to interact with their fans. They updated their site regularly and engaged their fans on their forum. From here they encouraged their fans to create their own TBM inspired content.
“We want ourFollowing fans to contribute and be involved so rather than (us) telling newcomers who we are, we would rather our fans tell you,” says the band.
They prided themselves on making their website more of augmented reality than just a destination for music and tour info. It became an environment for them and their fans to hang out. In their 21 years they have kept the momentum of the popularity going without having to rely on mainstream press or radio play.
The band is made of of three friends Sara “Chibi” Taylor – vocals, Michael Rainbow -rhythm guitar, and Michael Falcore – lead guitar. At present, TBM also includes Owen Mackinder – keyboards, Brett Carruthers – bass, and Phillip Elliot – drums. Over the years TBM has had many other members. On keyboards they had Adm and Dank. On drums, Rhim, J. Pulley, Joe Letz, and Nick Pesut. Bass has been Asian, O.E and Nate Manor.
Karl and I talk about music A LOT!!! His stories of his concert days made me want to get out there and experience it, for myself. Like I said, I am not one who enjoys large groups of people so concerts were not something I actively sought out but I needed to change that. With Covid shutting down the world for almost three years, I didn’t have to worry about getting myself into a concert going mindset.
The Birthday Massacre was also wanting to get back out on the road. They have released two albums in the time frame of Covid reshaping how we live. They NEEDED to get back out there. Viewing them on the Patreon page only showed how much they wanted to get back out on the touring circuit. This was the band who has always had a page to engage their fans, as well as their concerts. You could see how much this missed the interactions.
Karl’s stories made them out to be just regular people who loved hanging out with their fans. I couldn’t believe that would be possible based on the bands I had witnessed. Even watching them on the Patreon page left questioning it. What I was not aware of was how quickly my viewpoint would be changed.
A band for the fans
Finally, tour dates were announced for this year and I was as excited as Karl to be able to go. He proposed the idea, to me, of following them on tour for a few of their stops. Immediately, I wanted to do it and so our plan was hatched.
Our first stop was in Pittsburg, Penn. The best part was that we had VIP meet & greet tickets, I was beside myself with joy. I will spare all of the standing in line details and nervous ramblings and get straight to the meat of this. The roadie motioned to us that it was our turn. We walked in, masks on, and there they were – standing before us excited to meet us. Could this be real?
Chibi is the first to greet and walks over to give us a hug and looks at Karl and say he looks familiar. He drops his mask and she says, I know you. Words start pouring out of Karl’s mouth as he tells her about meeting them before. Chibi immediately remembers and even talks details about some of the venues. She turns to me and says “but you, I don’t know.” I laughed and said that I had not been to any of their shows before and that Karl had gotten me into them and it was instant love. We chat a little and then the rest of the band descends on us. Karl has already been chatting away with them about past events and music and the most recent albums. It was like going to a friend’s house to talk about your favorite things. I was blown away at how they wanted to hear from us. How they actually had fun with us while we were there.
I simply could not believe the genuineness of their interactions.
The hits keep coming
My rational mind told me that they were only being nice due to not touring in three years and just being nice to their fans. After all, my experience with most bands is that meet and greets are more of a less than desirable event they have to endure. Most fans typically get over excited about a group of people who really aren’t much different than they are. I can see where many famous people would tire of that. To me, they are just people – granted they have a personal kind of magic that I don’t possess and for that, I respect them.
With that being said, I expected that after meeting them, we would simply fade into the crowd and it would just be a memorable experience of meeting a band I have come to love. Even when Brett, the bassist, waved to us from the stage I tempered my excitement to just remembering us from the meet and greet.
As we walked into the concert, I was ready to write it all off as a fluke. We grabbed a quick bite and then made our way to the front of the stage. I honestly don’t remember much about the local opener band due to being so excited to be at a concert. Quickly, their set ended and Julien-K was up. We enjoyed it as much as we could but it seemed that the concert venue was having issues with sound and tech. It was hard to appreciate them because of the technical difficulties.
“Keith… Keith, ” I hear from over the din of the crowd. I figure its just someone calling for someone with the same name as me.
“Hey, Keith!!!” Slowly, I realize someone was yelling at me and I turn in the direction of the voice and it is no other than Brett Carruthers – bassist for TBM yelling at me. I was awestruck and the best I could manage was a head nod and saying “sup…” I was going for playing it cool and not act like some giddy fan. I am not sure how well it came off. .
After the show ends we try to hang around to, hopefully, meet the band. Karl managed to make his way to the stage and chatted with Phil (drummer) and Falcore (guitar). Just as he finished up, security asked him to leave. He spun to face us just as Chibi walked up behind him with Ryan Shuck (lead of Julien-K). He didn’t even see them until we pointed out how he just missed her. We made our way to the bar area to wait a bit longer. Owen (keyboards) came out to get a drink and asked me if I had seen their guitarist. I pointed out that Brett had gone to the bar. Karl made his way over and they both stopped to talk to him. I decided to be brave and go over as well. As I approached, Brett said my name, again. I said “Hey, Brett” and as I got closer, he leaned in for a hug. A hug from a guy in a band I am in love with gave me a hug, some random fan. It hit me at that point that these guys do actually care about their fans. As we were leaving for the night, Owen said he really appreciated us coming out and hoped to see us again. We smiled and said they would see us in Denver. Owen grinned and said “Really?” Karl said we were going to Denver and Salt Lake. “Then we will see you there,” said Owen.
We followed the Birthday Massacre tour from Pittsburgh, to Detroit, then to Denver, Salt Lake City, and then finally to Boston. It was an experience for me, one that I learned that there are actually bands that believe in their music and their fans. The band has built its popularity on giving their fans the music they love and encouraging them to be a part of that journey. Surrounded by fans who, to this day still wear bunny ears to their concerts and a band that loves seeing them. A close knit group of people who conjure music that caters to the souls of people who still hold the magic of childhood, fantasy, and darkness in their hearts. These are the reasons that this band holds such a special place in my heart.