Fresh off the most recent Alice Cooper tour, guitarist Nita Strauss recently hit the road on her own solo “Winter Wasteland Tour,” stopping in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday night. Established in 1989, The Masquerade is a bit of a unique venue experience, with three different indoor rooms handling a wide range of capacities, ironically named Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Strauss even joked that she got “upgraded” from Purgatory, which is the room she played in when she last visited The Masquerade.
Opening the evening was local musician Austin C. Bolen, who provided an experience I had never witnessed before. As best as I could describe it, he had an electric cello that he played over a rocking backing track for a few songs. It was absolutely mesmerizing, and when he swapped it out for his guitar, he continued to showcase his immense musical talent. At some point during his set, he both played the Braves theme song (to the Tomahawk Chant of the crowd in response), and showcased a Mozart song on the cello, because as Bolen put it, “Mozart was clearly a rocker at heart.” Bolen would be really interesting to experience at a venue that is probably more conducive to sitting back and enjoying his performance, but I am pretty sure he left much of the early crowd with gaping mouths either way, including mine.
Given that Bolen only had an instrument stand and a chair, the next musician quickly up on stage was master guitar shredder Marc Rizzo, best known for his work as the former lead guitarist of metal band Soulfly. Admittedly I am more of a hair metal connoisseur and know very little about Rizzo or Soulfly, but it was hard not to be impressed with how he manhandled his 7-string Washburn guitar back and forth across the stage. He, like Bolen, performed over a thunderous backing track, and simply shredded people’s faces off. When you look at the photos below, check out his left hand – I am sure many guitar players are jealous of how far he can stretch his fingers along the neck and frets.
Following Rizzo’s dizzying set – while grabbing his trademark backpack off the side stage on his way out – the stage was briefly flipped for New York City-based band Black Satellite. Black Satellite, fronted by lead vocalist Larissa Vale, seemed to have a stylish, punk-like feel to them, albeit I could barely make any of them out through the darkness. Their newest single, SONNE, is posted below, and if you enjoy bands like Type O Negative, you should definitely check them out.
Shortly after 10pm, Strauss, boyfriend/drummer Josh Villalta, and bass player Christopher Dean took the stage through smoke and strobes, launching into the “Power Rangers” theme. Of note, fellow All Music Magazine contributor Terrell Stewart attended her November 27 show in Denver, Colorado, and the setlist below is identical.
Having recently covered Strauss at her “day job” (as she puts it) with Alice Cooper at their stop in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 9, I can comfortably say that she rocked out as hard she could in the more intimate setting at The Masquerade as she did on the much larger stage of the Daily’s Place amphitheater. Strauss criss-crossed the stage with Dean regularly, making sure that everyone in attendance was able to get a good view of her playing. It is also worth mentioning that Villalta is a pure beast on the drums! He was a hammering animal behind the kit, and my son noticed that when Villalta handed out the sticks after the set, they were completely shredded into toothpicks.
Similar to the show Stewart attended in Denver, Black Satellite’s Vale joined Strauss on stage to sing the Alice Cooper classic “Feed My Frankenstein,” but the crowd Thursday was also surprised with a very special guest. Outside of touring with Alice Cooper, Strauss is also known for playing at WWE wrestling events (including Wrestlemania 34), and gracing the Hell stage on Thursday night was none other than WWE Hall of Famer Mick Freaking Foley to sing along! Bang bang!
The evening concluded around 11:30pm, with Strauss and team wrapping up the night performing her most recent hit single “Dead Inside,” followed by favorite “Our Most Desperate Hour” from the Controlled Chaos CD. But before I end, please allow me an unsolicited plug for Strauss’s pre-show VIP Meet & Greet sessions. I have paid to attend two of these now with my teenage guitarist son, and Strauss couldn’t be more personable and down to earth. She Q&As with the attendees for a good 20-30 minutes on any random topics raised, and remembered faces from prior sessions – including my son’s from a few year’s back. She takes the time to individualize each 1:1 moment with her during the autograph portion, which wraps up the roughly hour-long engagement. If you are attending her solo show down the road and have the means, I would encourage any fan to take advantage of these sessions.
1.) Power Rangers
2.) Mariana Trench
4.) Lion Among Wolves
5.) The Stillness at the End
6.) Summer Storm
7.) Feed My Frankstein (Alice Cooper cover with Larissa Vale)
8.) Quest/Drum Solo
9.) The Show Must Go On
11.) Dead Inside
12.) Our Most Desperate Hour
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