Most bands are created to play shows and participate in their local music scene. A significantly smaller number of them dare to create a niche that shakes things up within its confines. Then there’s the band that takes their scene and burns it to the ground after ripping the flesh from its bones and spitting blood in its face. That band is Death Hymn Number 9.
Anyone who ever sought real enjoyment out of coming to a show in OC hopefully did themselves a favor by witnessing them break whatever stage they happened to be playing on. If you didn’t, you only have one more chance this week when the band shockingly decides to call it quits after nine years. Their show on March 7 at Alex’s Bar will be the last in a string of farewell gigs before founding member Troy Bootow relocates his family up to Portland–as if those granola-eating hippies actually deserve him!
Whether they were bashing their gear or diving head first into the crowd, Death Hymn’s psychotic pursuit of a good time always left fans with a story to tell.
“At one show there was literally a full on riot,” vocalist Paul Gonzalez remembers.
During the set which was already creating chaos inside the San Pedro skateshop Badfish back in 2011, a belligerent heckler told the band he had more talent in his ass than the whole band did before dropping his pants and attempting to sit his bare buttcheeks on drummer Pat Tapia’s drumkit. Big mistake.
“Pat had both drum sticks in his right hand and as the guy’s coming closer I watched those sticks go inside that guy’s body and disappear,” remembers guitarist Troy Bootow.
Naturally, the impaled heckler punched Tapia and the free-for-all melee commenced with the band beating the guy mercilessly until finally the shop owners stopped the show.
“They threw the people in the show out and locked us inside to keep everyone else away from us,” Tapia says.
We could probably write a book on the number of crazy shows this band had since Bootow and Tapia first decided to slather on zombie paint and play the Tropics Lounge in their native Fullerton back in 2009. A couple years later, they added added Gonzalez on vocals and Justin Smith on bass to solidified the tornado of shrieking psychosis that we’ve come to love. Though its hard for any recording to really do the band justice, both of the band’s albums, 2011’s Smokestack Frightening and 2013’s Third Degree Moon Burns harness the gory, throat shredding stomp. Bootow says that even though they won’t be performing anymore, hopefully the band’s hand full of unreleased recordings will make their way out of the grave one of these days.
For their show at Alex’s, the band plans to go out the same way they came in, rocking their bloody shirts and zombie-style face paint, they laugh at the thought of any comparison to Misfits-themed horror punk.
“I wish to god we never did it, I hate it,” Bootow says about the makeup. “We look like Pandas.”
But Erik Varho, who joined the band on bass when Smith left in 2015, says it’ll always be part of the band’s appeal.
“That’s my favorite part,” he says. “The half-assedness of the zombie thing. If you guys were actually trying to be zombies or something it would be weird.”
For a while Bootow and Tapia decided on being zombie business tycoons that killed themselves after the stock market crash. But the outfits slowly transformed into wearing just jeans and t-shirts they barely washed.
“Pat had the smelliest shirt out of all of us,” Gonzalez says. “There was a point when we were like ‘Pat just put your shirt outside the tour van.”
Even at times when Death Hymn smelled even more violently than they played, their music and their attitude will continued to set them apart from the rest of local music until their dying breath.
“Things weren’t angry enough, things weren’t wild enough and things were too safe which made us outcasts in a way. We’ve never been safe, we’re a bunch of delinquents,” Bootow says. “But not fitting in is the best thing to ever happen to us.”
Death Hymn Number 9’s Farewell Show with Kim and the Created, Melted, Golden Ram, Slop Stomp DJs, 9 p.m., Alex’s Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292, http://www.alexsbar.com. 21+.
Nate Jackson is the gatekeeper to your dreams of local dive bar stardom. If he writes about you, expect your band to be offered at least one more drink ticket than the rest of the bands on the bill. Get his attention with some groovy tunes and he might just do it. Then, boy will you feel special.