Monday, July 22

The Tiger Lillies set to test limits at Royce Hall on Halloween

The Tiger Lillies, who hail from the United Kingdom, will be playing a set featuring songs from  the show "Shockheaded Peter" at Royce Hall on Halloween.

The Tiger Lillies, who hail from the United Kingdom, will be playing a set featuring songs from the show "Shockheaded Peter" at Royce Hall on Halloween. UCLA LIVE

An accordion, a musical saw, a go-to-hell expression and face makeup that would cause any child under the age of 10 to seek therapy ““ this is the recipe for a beautiful musical disaster. The Tiger Lillies, a British “death oompah” band that juxtaposes elements of heavy metal culture and folk, will bring together elements of theater, music, vulgarity and devious subtext for a limit-testing show in Royce Hall on Halloween night.

It can be somewhat challenging to chant along with gusto to a chorus that stridently declares, “And I kicked the baby down the stairs.” For the weak of heart, this might cause an impromptu gasp of disapproval. For the rest of the audience, according to tour manager Tim Whitehead, it is comedic genius.

“They are very clever with changing the mood of the show,” Whitehead said. “What’s amazing is they take you on a journey where one minute they can be doing something absolutely crazy, stupid, silly and in-your-face with a lot of shock value … and within five minutes, they’ve taken you to this dark, beautiful place.”

The Tiger Lillies are a trio composed of vocalist, accordion player and front man Martyn Jacques, percussionist Adrian Huge and Adrian Stout, a man whose avant-garde musical repertoire includes the theremin, the musical saw and the contrabass. With a style that has been described by audience members as satanic folk and punk cabaret, the concoction of an umbrella term to categorize the group might prove to be a daunting task.

“We don’t really stick to any real genre that is easily fit into, and that’s what I wanted,” Jacques said. “You’re never quite sure what section we’ll be in at the record shop. … We could be in jazz, folk, indie or I’ve even seen easy listening before.”

Living above a brothel in London’s Soho in his youth, Jacques grew up a witness to London’s grimy underbelly. Preoccupied with the concept of death in the form of grotesque and irrelevant musical references, Jacques alternates between two theatrical characters throughout the burlesque ““ one a manic falsetto shrieking with exaggerated vibrato, and the other a ghoulish, masculine baritone rasping viscerally. Clad in a black bowler hat, stark black and white clown makeup and early-20th-century vaudevillian European street garb, Jacques makes quite the impression on stage.

“We did an opera a few years ago called “˜Shockheaded Peter,’ a German child’s story that we turned in to an opera. … You know, kids are dying because they suck their thumbs and things like that. … It’s going to be very appropriate for Halloween,” Jacques said regarding the group’s UCLA show. “We often go to the U.S. on Halloween because people think we’re a Halloween band. … But we actually dress up like this all the time, you know; we’re a Halloween band in July, too.”

The Tiger Lillies will be spearheading the American leg of their current tour with their work “Shockheaded Peter,” a show adapted from the children’s story of Heinrich Hoffmann, “Struwwelpeter.” “Shockheaded Peter” won the category for best entertainment in the 2002 Olivier Awards, a theater awards ceremony put on by the Society of London Theatre, and Jacques took home the award that same year for best performance in a supporting role in a musical. The dark, off-kilter reenactment of the German anecdote utilizes cello, violin, banjo, clarinet and trombone to achieve the sound and feel of a twisted burlesque gone astray into a land neighboring that of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

“I like stuff that is unsettling,” Stout said. “There are three distinct characters on stage; we’re not just a typical band. There is a lot of humor in what we’re all doing ““ we play off the theatrical mood of our songs and the subtext to the music were playing.”

A cultish, year-round Halloween ensemble with a demented barroom musical foundation and a sensibility for the most sinister of humor, the Tiger Lillies come to L.A. equipped with unending shock value.

“There are not a lot of bands that combine theater, punk, folk music and all different kinds of surrealism and outrage,” Stout said. “No one really does anything quite like that.”

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