A wicked choice 

Pick your treat: Volumen or Signal Path?

Forget the age-old question of trick or treat. The bigger question this Halloween: attend Volumen’s mega-buzz-worthy cover set of the entire Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack at the Badlander, or witness the return of Signal Path to the legendary Barnburner after a two year hiatus? We’re not choosing sides. Instead, we’re offering a little insight into how both must-see shows came about.

Enter the time warp
In December 1999, the current lineup of Volumen—guitarists Shane Hickey and Doug Smith, bassist Bryan Hickey, drummer Bob Marshall and keyboardist Chris Bacon—played their first show together, sort of as an experiment. Their inaugural set: a start-to-finish cover of the glam rock classic Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The show was a huge success, the band decided they should probably stick together and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nearly eight years later Missoula’s favorite nerd rockers are tackling a similarly grand concept by covering the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show in its entirety. After spending the last two months honing up on all things Frank-N-Furter, Volumen unveiled a teaser at the end of their KBGA Birthday Bash set—a version of “The Time Warp” that sounded dead-on and sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy.

“I remember we were working on the chorus at practice and each of us were trying to pick out a different part of the harmony and finally I was like, ‘You know, we don’t even have to do this because the audience is going to sing every line anyway,’” explains Shane Hickey. “Sure enough, that’s what happened. I don’t think everyone [in the band] realizes just how popular this is.”

In fact, most of Volumen hadn’t even seen Rocky Horror before Shane and Marshall suggested the idea over the summer. That led to a band practice where they watched the DVD—and drank a lot of beer. Since deciding then and there to give it a try, the project’s been surprisingly rewarding.

“I always thought the songs at the end weren’t as strong, but as we’ve listened to it more there’s some really great stuff,” says Shane. “Like, there’s [“Rose Tint My World/Floor Show”] that’s got, like, six parts and it’s incredible. Working through that is just awesome. We keep saying, you know, this is actually going to make us a better band.”

There is one thing that could torpedo Volumen’s effort. Part of the film’s tradition involves throngs of in-character devotees attending screenings to act out an elaborate alternate script with call-outs and choreography. Volumen is ready for a wild rock show, but not prepared to lead a group of rabid Rocky Horror fanatics.

“It’s not that it wouldn’t be awesome if a bunch of die-hards showed up—it would,” Shane says. “But we’ll just fall apart. I can see us now on stage turning to each other going, ‘Why are they all yelling at us? What are they throwing? What are we doing wrong?’ That’s too much. We just want to play and have fun.”

Volumen play the Badlander Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 10 PM, with a Haunted Western Brothel next door. Pleaseeasaur opens. $10.

On the road again
Signal Path drummer Damon Metzner wants to clear something up.

“Just to set the record straight: Signal Path never broke up,” Metzner says via cellular phone from Denver on the electronic jam band’s long-awaited return tour. “There was never a phone call of ‘We’re never going to tour again, I hate you, that’s it.’ That never took place. It’s really simple—we just needed a break.”

After four years of nearly non-stop touring—including opening gigs for Widespread Panic, Galactic and Nelly, among others—Signal Path called timeout in summer 2005. Now the local group is refreshed, refocused and embarking on a short Western tour that, so far, has sold out 500-seat venues in Colorado and Arizona. The tour stops in Missoula for the 11th annual Barnburner, the legendary Halloween party/rave that’s long been a staple of Signal Path’s schedule.

“Right now we’re just focused on learning a bunch of new material,” says Metzner, who’s joined in the band by guitarist/composer Ryan Burnett, keyboardist Matt Jones, electronic drummer Ben Griffin, DJ Cody Wille and bassist Matt Schumacher. “The music on this tour is largely pre-programmed compositions that Ryan created and we’ll be accompanying them as a band. Ryan created these solid structures and beats—he’s always been the visionary of the band—and the sound is unlike anything we’ve ever done before.”

Burnett’s compositions are the foundation, but Signal Path’s signature instrumental improvisations will still be the show’s dominant sound. As Metzner says, “We’re basically using the computer to make our sound twice as big. It’s the most hard-hitting stuff we’ve ever done.”

Signal Path’s current tour is a precursor to the band’s next full-length album, which they plan on releasing later this winter. But first things first—Metzner says their immediate focus is reconnecting as a band and playing their favorite show.

“For us, Signal Path and the Barnburner are synonymous,” he says. “People are looking for an excuse to party and we’re a dance band. The headliner that night will be Halloween.”

Signal Path plays the Barnburner with Pnuma Trio, swyl and the Voodoo Dolls burlesque dance troupe Wednesday, Oct. 31 at The Other Side at 9 PM. $12.
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