Like many of the best nights, Slingshot’s Roadshow of Horrors began with some amateur spell-casting. Bandleader Zachary Bishop announced that he had found a necronomicon and was going to use it summon the power of desire. His co-vocalist Jenelle Sosa protested strenuously, but to no avail. The audience was hastily given spell printouts to help with the incantation. Once the verse was finished, the necronomicon burst into flames.
Thus began four hours of the brash, campy, flaming carnival that is Slingshot’s Roadshow.
Zachary and Jenelle’s band Slingshot is a little over a year old—“cobbled together from the ragged remains of ruined reputations and delusions of grandeur,” as their band bio has it. The name is a nod to Gogol Bordello, and Slingshot has seen a revolving cast of musicians. For the Roadshow of Horrors, the ensemble included guitar (Sam Braverman), violin (Emma Sky), accordion (Evan Perry), piano (Jordan Siwek), and drums (Brett Wishart). It’s a rich, dramatic cabaret sound, with songs about drinking and longing and murder and decrepit carnivals, which are just begging to be accompanied by burlesque dancers and acrobats and magicians.
Last summer, Zachary started bringing just such performers into the mix, creating a variety show–type atmosphere with Slingshot as the live soundtrack. An early addition was Tara McManus, one of Brooklyn’s best-known fire performers. Tara continues to perform with Slingshot regularly: along with Zachary and Jenelle, she co-produced the Roadshow of Horrors, as well as designing all the fire props and stunts. Her influence was easy to ascertain: in addition to the flaming necronomicon, the Roadshow included fire staff performances, fireball spewing, and even flaming tap shoes—in fact, by the end of the show, nearly the whole stage was alight.
In between fiery feats, the Roadshow boasted plenty of mayhem and spectacle. Stacey Spectacular did an acrobatic striptease revealing Bowie-inspired skivvies under not just her skirt, but Zachary’s and Jenelle’s getups as well. Natalie McFancy and Graham Stockdale (of the flaming tap-shoes) did a statues-come-to-life stilt-walking (and -dancing) routine. Zachary and Jenelle had a scat battle. The band went into a trance and played a conga. Pop-punk / funk band Evofo played an entire set in between Roadshow acts. Dancer Torrie Ogilvie slunk and capered about as a mischievous dragonbat. And House of Yes cofounder Anya Sapozhnikova performed her usual jaw-dropping aerial feats, including a zipline from one side of the room to the other and a daredevil routine on flaming chain.
Although this was the first Roadshow of Horrors, there have been several previous Roadshows, and more are in the works. Previously the show has rocked Bushwick’s Bizarre Bar, but with this one, the extravaganza moved to the glorious House of Yes. “The House of Yes can truly facilitate my vision,” Zachary told us. “It was the most cathartic feeing, being able to do whatever I wanted in this space. I mean, what other venue would have let me light the entire stage on fire?”