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Bitter Blood Street Theatre Vol. 1 (1978)


Bitter Blood Street Theatre was a performance art troupe-slash-acid rock band from Cincinnati active in the early 1970s. Their music was a swirling dervish of bong-hitting psychedelia with slashing hard rock guitars and a penchant for exotic instrumentation, including a few saw solos.

The band were colourful kooks in Kiss-style masks, draped in capes and/or dominatrix outfits, and the ‘street theatre’ bit involved exactly that: extras culled from the local freak scene who would perform on stage with the band, or in the audience, or out on the sidewalk in front of the club. Perfomances would range from a guy in a wheelchair calmly eating live locusts out of a cigar box, to flashers showing their private bits to whomever caught their eye.


The band played with all the heavy-hitters of the era and the area, from The MC5 to Alice Cooper (who, some believe, nicked a thing or two from Bitter’s stage performance), but never made any headway beyond Ohio’s borders. In 1975, the band were briefly part of the Columbia Records roster, but the exec who signed them was reportedly fired the same day, and the band was unceromoniously dropped.

They did manage to eke out one single in ’75, but the band broke up soon after, morphing into still-active ‘fringe-rock’ outfit, Blacklight Braille. In the late 70s, BBST mainman Tom Owen was able to cobble together the band’s various demo tracks and release them as a two-volume anthology. Both are now considered minor masterpieces of 70s weird-psyche. Sadly, no vintage footage of the band has surfaced yet, so we are left to imagine what it might be like to catch these pioneering maniacs live. (source)


Patrick McMahon - Drums, Wind Instruments
Richard Von Nida - Guitar, Vocals
Keb Jar - Bass, Soprano Saxophone
Luthor Lindenschmidt - Percussion
Eric "El Sandor" Waits - Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Percussion
T.H.O. Knight - Saw, Percussion, Producer
Gwenivere - Lead Vocals, Maracas
Fred R. Elig - Bass

Both Bitter Blood Street Theatre albums show up for sale often (as do those of their less “rock” offshoot band Blacklight Braille), so they must have had a pretty big local fan base. The band’s name implies some kind of cult ritual or performance art, but the “theatre” is limited to a couple of brief monologues and one song that’s recited rather than sung. This is straightforward rock with a few quirks (wild singing, some sax, a band member who plays a saw, which sounds a lot like a theremin.) Some of the guitar is pretty heavy; the rhythm guitars have a great punchy distortion sound that reminds me of the Stones’ “Monkey Man.” There are three vocalists, two men and a woman. All of them are reasonably distinctive, and the woman sounds pretty eerie when she sings backup. All of the elements are there for this to be a cool band. With maybe two exceptions, though, the songwriting is uninteresting. In the end, this is one of those albums that seems like it’s going to be really great but just isn’t. [AM]

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