These scribblings are for the benefit of those who have never seen Chattanooga’s own insane clown posse, Opposite Box. If you’ve seen them, then you already know. There is no gray area with Opposite Box. Either you love their crazy antics, or, well…
The boys will resume their summer tour Thursday (August 17th), kicking off The BIG What? at, naturally, 4:20, right after Casey Cranford leads Welcome What parade. That is the first of five consecutive shows, with dates in West Virginia and Tennessee and at Eclipsee’Ya in Williamsburg KY.
We first ‘discovered’ Opposite Box at the 2015 edition of The BIG What? in North Carolina, hosted gloriously by Big Something. Here was our report at the time.
Opposite Box was astounding. Like Camel Filters, they’re not for everybody, perhaps, but, OH DAMN. For this show, they were a quartet plus a singer (sometimes, a Sousaphone player and sax man are there). They opened with a screaming rock starter, “Russian,” with Richard Long shredding while wearing a half-mask the entire show and Dave Graham looking like a thrash-metal star on bass. And they were bad, in the very best sense of the word. Badass. The prog-rock tune morphed into “Hall of the Mountain King,” driven by Ryan Long’s keyboards. Then it went crazy.
The setlist says “Pirate — Sex.” It started off full-frontal punk metal, turned into driving reggae, became “16 men on a dead man’s chest,” featured a segment with a woman introduced as Isaac Hayes’ daughter, and then became a demonstration song (not that kind) about the P and the V (penis and…). They did apologize briefly if any tender ears were offended… and kept right on going!
Ryan Guza was keeping everybody sort of in line on the drums, and then Ryan Long, quite a vision himself, grabbed a trombone and showed more mad skills. They played an excellent swing tune, which somehow became metallic. For every second of the set, the band displayed insane energy and awesome talent and a true eye and ear for the weird. It was so cool. I understood why they called their music “belligerent jungle funk.”
At some point, I walked over to David Lee. “I know what you’re going to say!” he stopped me in my tracks with that grin. “Bath Salt Zombies!” He nailed it. Bath Salt Zombies on punk metal. (That’s our Florida point of reference and a very positive one.)
In the middle of another song (“Devil’s Lettuce,” perhaps?), Long donned a full lion-head mask and played his trombone. THEN he jumped off the stage and started parading around. Somehow, right when he was parading near David and me, he stepped into a hula hoop on the ground, picked it up, and hooped and played for a bit! PANDEMONIUM!
Some spacey keyboards, harmony vocals, and scat singing were featured on a very soulful song I thought was “My soul is shattered by fire,” except that’s not on the setlist. This band can do anything. Anything. Told they had time for one more song, Long said, “This one’s called ‘Back in Black!’” So of course they played “Frankenstein.”
Note: Ryan’s vocals were fine, but the lady’s vocals were drastically undermiked (same problem as on Friday).
It was only 2 PM, and already I was drained. Just WOW.
Since then, there has been a personnel change on bass, with Ryan Crabtree replacing Dave Graham. They decided to tour with — of course — The Bath Salt Zombies, playing a variety of dates in both Florida and Tennessee, and they also did a live in-studio performance on In the Groove, the jamband show on WMNF 88.5 in Tampa, where I moderated in between songs.
Then there was a show with BSZ in several days later (January 2016), and this happened:
Opposite Box, four crazies from Chattanooga, brought their brand of insanity to the Sunshine State. They played a live set on WMNF 88.5’s In the Groove program Tuesday and had their first Florida matchup with BSZ Wednesday in Sarasota. By the time I arrived at the Dunedin Brewery, OB had already captivated the crowd. And Sara Phillips, trombone player for Green Sunshine, was playing with them!
In the midst of the tune, Ryan Long, who plays keyboards and trombone and sings, shouted out drummer Ryan Guzman. He was the one with the full-face Jason-like mask. Partway through the solo, he suddenly grabbed one of his floor toms and carried it to the center of the dance floor, all the while playing. Then guitarist Dick Long (the one with the pig face half-mask), grabbed the other floor tom and brought it out as well, drumsticks also in hand. The two circled the drums, playing all the while. Guzman occasionally also played the floor, barstool legs, and anything else he could find. Eventually they returned the toms to the stage and just kept rolling.
Opposite Box ranges from funky jazz to all-out, full-frontal thrash punk. That’s a fairly wide range. Ryan Long was blowing up his synthesizer, when the next tune then evolved into a very jazzy electric piano workout. At some point, Ryan donned his full-head lion mask, grabbed his trombone, came out onto the dance floor, climbed up on a stool, and blew!
There was a story song about Sarah, a girl whose trusted her girlfriend, Megan, convinced her to do psychedelic drugs at a music festival, riotously turning into “Shake What Your Mama Gave You.” Then there was a song about drinking on the beach.
Ryan called another “rock and roll!” song, and it morphed continuously: “Gin and Juice > ?? > Pray for the Dead > Blackwater > Fat-Bottom Girls > Zomby Woof.” The “Zomby Woof” was huge. Preparing for the last song, Ryan said, “Sing along if you know the words.” Naturally, they played Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein.” Called back for an encore, they played a superb version of “Creatures,” a tune from their new EP, Make a Jungle Noise Here.
Not everyone can be there on Thursday at The BIG What?, and others won’t be able to make it early. But if you are there, don’t miss Opposite Box. Same goes for all of you at Eclipsee’Ya and everyone else in their wake.
You can thank me later.
(And read our On the Rise feature here.) Feature image by Amy Kenyon Photography.