Your ticket, please
Darque Carnival takes you on a frightful roller coaster ride of metal and mayhem
Skulls, candles and gargoyles adorn a small stage. A 10-foot Ferris wheel with skull baskets rotates behind three darkly clad men wearing face makeup. Slowly, eerily, the music comes in, shell-shocking the unprepared crowd. A 6-foot-8-inch man creeps in from the back of the room—scaring a crowd already unsure of its surroundings—cradling a bloody head with a dangling spinal cord. As he jumps on stage, the music ignites the band and crowd into a frenzy of pounding drums, pulsing, groove-oriented bass lines and the deep, guttural growl of the singer’s voice.
So begins the set of local band Darque Carnival.
Started in 1996, the current incarnation of the band has been together since May 1999. Part aggressive metal, part throwback to the days of over-the-top arena shows of the mid- to late ‘70s, the members of Darque Carnival say they hope to leave every audience member enthralled with their theatrics and music.
“When you pay $5 to see Darque Carnival, it’s 10 times what you’ll see at a regular show,” drummer Rick Brenner says.
Not to be lost in the dark stage setup is the music behind the shrouded men of Darque Carnival. The four-piece band belts out a dark metal sound not heard too often in today’s era of metal/rap fusion bands and pop superstars.
“The closest band to compare us to would be Pantera,” says the towering, muscular lead singer Isaac Harris, who once tried out for professional wrestling and still hopes to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. “When we play live, you can hear what each of us is doing individually.”
In sticking with their metal roots, Darque Carnival may have paved itself a bumpy road to the music industry—but some of that bumpiness isn’t their fault.
“Every few nights we have a Spinal Tap night,” says lead guitarist Pasquale Zagari, referring to the band’s many ill-fated trips over the Sierra Nevada.
At one show in Danville, Calif., the band’s transportation broke down, forcing them to rent a utility trailer at the last minute. They loaded up as much equipment as they could, strapped tarps over the back because of the onslaught of rain and headed over the mountains. By the time they reached their destination, the tarps had shredded in the wind and the equipment was wet.
But they persevered and went on stage, only to have Zagari’s guitar string break on the first song. Without a back-up guitar—because it wouldn’t fit in the trailer—Darque Carnival finished the song while Zagari fixed his string. They ended the night sleeping on the stage of the American Legion Hall because they couldn’t drive their gear home in the rain.
“Even though shit happened right from the get-go, that was a good show,” bassist Tim MacDonald says. “The crowd understood what we went through to play for them.”
While many local bands play almost exclusively in the Reno area, Darque Carnival is one of the few exceptions to this rule, playing about 75 percent of their shows away from the friendly confines of Washoe Valley. And while many stages can’t accommodate Darque Carnival’s entire elaborate stage setup, the band says they always try to bring along a little of their show with them.
“The name says it all," Brenner says. "We’re a dark, evil carnival ride. It’s like a train wreck. You just have to stare."