Bizarro gameshow sets stage for Philly psych onslaught

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Part punk, part surf, part droning-psych, Philadelphia's Dark Web cast a wide net and brought back the marrow of its constituent genres during its March 22 performance performance at Monstercade. (photo by Spencer Brown)

Think “Jeopardy,” only with bizarro questions and your host clad in a vintage corduroy suit.

March 22 marked the first ever Elevated Weirdo gameshow at Monstercade. It was the opening act before Philadelphia punk/garage rockers Dark Web took the stage. Hosted by popular vintage-goods seller Toby Hilliard, owner of the store Elevated Weirdo, any notions of what was to happen vanished almost instantly, and for the better.

With a random selection of contestants taken from the crowd the gameshow began, complete with cheesy bumper music and perfect sound effects. The format and questions mirrored Hilliard’s popular vintage store, praising the more bizarre and weird side of pop culture. Instead of highbrow trivia questions about ancient royalty or the depth of the Finger Lakes, contestants were charged with impersonating Mr. T or Melissa Etheridge, describing pro wrestler’s catchphrases and naming the origins of psychedelic drugs.

The show captivated both crowd and contestants alike, pulling the entire room into a spiral of nostalgia. All questions pertained to the decades before the 2000s and back to the ’70s, and the contestants played for prizes, such as wrestling trading cards, vinyl records, action figures and vintage clothing. One could exchange a prize for a mystery bag, inside of which were found old cigarette butts, classic VHS movies and various other items.

Monstercade has been picking up the pieces of music and performance art in Winston-Salem since the closing of the Garage and Test Pattern. The venue has opened its doors to more eclectic and artistic performances, filling up the calendar and providing a platform for shows as offbeat as Hilliard’s.

But beyond the simply weird, the gameshow seemed to offer a commentary on the broader culture. The performance made glancing references to once-in-a-life-time chances at piles of cash, brand-new cars and other tokens of disposable consumption. Knowingly or not, Hilliard managed to take a mere gameshow and turn it into something even more weird than the items for sale at his store.

For more information on Dark Web and Elevated Weirdo, visit darkweb2.bandcamp.com or elevatedweirdo.com.

The gameshow offered a refreshing break from the nightlife ritual of a live band or DJ and set a proper mood for headliner Dark Web.

The four-piece, Philly outfit elevated the night with a sound that bends genres and tweaks convention. Part punk, part surf, part droning-psych, Dark Web’s vibe casts a wide net and brought back the marrow of its constituent genres. A lifeblood of drums and driving rhythms flow under each hypnotic, droning guitar lead and lifted the solos — one trope the band still honors.

Monstercade was the first stop on Dark Web’s tour up and down the East Coast and across the Midwest to support its debut album Clone Age, due for release on April 30.

Though at first glance it might seem like an odd pairing, the first-ever Elevated Weirdo gameshow and Dark Web matched perfectly together; it was the exact sort of show that tears down the walls of what “normal” shows are becoming and creates something entirely new.

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