Goddess of Rock’s 33rd Birthday Metal Bash
w/ Children’s Choir, Coffin Syrup, Headrush
Fri. Dec. 21
$6 , $10/age 18-20
Rodeo Room at The Plex
2390 Aviation Ave.
“Frame of Mind” from the album Children’s Choir
Keep the earplugs handy: Children’s Choir are back, as 98X deejay Laine (the “Goddess of Rock”) celebrates her 33rd birthday with the local metal legends, with support from Coffin Syrup and Headrush in the Rodeo Room at The Plex this Friday. Portions of the proceeds benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. All three bands are performing for free.
“To this day this band has had a great relationship with local media,” says Kevin Isaac, long-haired bassist and singer of Children’s Choir. “As for Laine, we’ve known her for years. She’s a huge fan of hard rock and has always been a big fan of our band. As for her having dirt on us? Maybe, but you would have to ask her about that. We don’t kiss and tell…”
The Children’s Choir story is long and winding … and loud. The first chapter began when guitar-playin’ brothers Kevin and Richie Isaac ran into boy-wonder drummer Paolo Licciardi while attending Middleton High School in the late 1980s. All three were really into rock music — heavy metal and punk rock, in particular. They got some gear and tunes together and started jamming in the Isaac family garage.
“At that time, we were just three guys playing and learning songs by D.R.I., The Cro Mags, Megadeth, and Metallica,” says Kevin, who took on the role of bassist and lead singer. “We must have played ‘Seek and Destroy’ 800 times. We all grew up listening to heavy metal, hard rock, and the new wave of British heavy metal [Maiden, Priest, Motörhead]. Paolo comes from a broader musical landscape, but Richie and I were full-on metal.”
Initially, their live set was entirely comprised of riff-heavy instrumentals. Determined to stick together as a no-nonsense three-piece, Kevin reluctantly took on the duties of vocalist. Their first show under the name “Children’s Choir” was in 1990 at the Sailfish Lounge on James Island (off the Wappoo Cut), opening for local band Lethal Injection.
“During our set, the smoke machine we rented got stuck and totally fogged the place out,” remembers the bassist. “It was a very Spinal Tap moment. We came up with the name a few weeks before the show. We liked that it sounded very non-metal. It was different and had nothing to do with our sound. In retrospect, I’m surprised we weren’t taken as a Christian band, because we are not that at all. Don’t get me wrong; we aren’t Satanists either.”
That harder, more metallic side of the Charleston band scene was deeply underground in the early ’90s, but Children’s Choir broke out of that with a tough, gruff sound, powered in large part by Richie’s sinister guitar work and Paolo’s piledriver drumming style. Through those early years, Children’s Choir put a lot of effort into writing their own material and establishing themselves as a legitimate rock act in the local clubs. This was during the height of the Hootie/Panic era, when most local bands either grooved or jangled to a lighter beat.
Kevin may not have sought the spotlight as the frontman, but he belted out his lyrics with a convincing growl, more along the lines of Henry Rollins, Pantera’s Phil Anselmo, and the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne than the guttural howls of some of the darker/faster death metal and hardcore of the time.
The Choir played their first big downtown show opening for an impressive bill of Corrosion of Conformity, L7, and Helmet. That gig led to further bookings and various showcases. Their reputation as a solid, menacingly-tight band grew.
“Our sound was and is straightfoward, meat ‘n’ potatoes hard rock with influences of metal, thrash, and a splash of traditional punk,” Kevin says. “While we had no problem playing Rockburger, Hammerjack’s and all the clubs in West Ashley and North Charleston, we didn’t want to get stuck just playing those venues,” says Isaac. “Back then, hard rock bands were a North Charleston thing. We started hanging out at the original Music Farm on East Bay Street and going to Myskyn’s in the Market.”
In 1996, they recorded and mixed their only official full-length LP with engineer Bob Moore at Sound Lab in Lexington — a self-titled, 12-song collection that ripped. They played a big album-release party at the Music Farm. The songs contained certain elements of classic and modern metal, from both U.S. and U.K. styles.
“I would say we peaked somewhere between 1994 and ’96,” says Isaac. “We were drawing 800 people at the new Music Farm on Ann Street. We never really got really huge out of town. Your hometown is easy because you know everybody. All your friends come out. MySpace didn’t exist back then, and radio didn’t play local music other than 96 Wave’s The Cutting Edge. The Woodman [Woody Bartlett] was good to us back in the day. To promote your shows, you had to make a million flyers and plaster the College of Charleston. At the time good friends of ours Muthafist were doing the same thing.”
In 2000, Kevin moved to Washington, D.C. Richie began working as an engineer with the Broadway musical Rent and eventually landed a job with GE powering the Olympics. Paolo played with numerous rock, pop, and metal bands in Charleston (he’s still in high demand), and currently works at a downtown law firm.
“Every now and then we wake up the beast and drag it out of the cave,” laughs Kevin about the occasional Children’s Choir gigs. “It’s all just for fun. I would never have guessed we would have this kind of longevity and interest in the band. It’s cool having a shelf life.”