Rock Chopera | Music Feature | Indy Week
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Rock Chopera 

The Orange County Daredevils take on evil Aldermen, working girls and decapitation in their rock opera, Strongneck.

When The Who unleashed Tommy on an unsuspecting public in 1969, they couldn't have known that they had created a new genre that would continue to flourish decades after its introduction. The rock opera has seen many incarnations over the years, from biblical (Jesus Christ Superstar) to gender-bending (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and now a collective of local musicians are preparing to bombard the senses of audiences far and wide with their tale of a headless lout and his love for a skanky prostitute.

Strongneck is the formidable opus from the Orange County Daredevils, a group formed by five intrepid performers who sought to create an act that could "kick the Eagles' ass." The tale centers around a young man named Rygar Strongneck, a lad possessed with the power of "the knowledge," who unwittingly loses his head to an evil assemblage known only as "The Aldermen," scurvy villains who fear Rygar's power and seek to prevent him from becoming king of the land of Orangia. Each year, Orangia holds a contest to see who has the most powerful intellect, and without his head, Rygar stands no chance of conquering these evildoers, his slow wit being considered "as sharp as a bag of wet mice."

Languishing without his melon, Rygar meets and falls for a local prostitute named Flo, known for being "so butt-ugly that she had to creep up on her own bathwater." But just when things are hunky-dory, Flo is kidnapped by the evil Aldermen, leaving Rygar a blubbering mess. Since it's hard to cry when you have no head, Rygar decides to go in search of his disease-riddled love and ends up contemplating the unthinkable at the edge of a perilous cliff known as "The Cooch."

Musically, the show moves all over the place, hopping around genres like blues, jazz, bluegrass and many others, each sound fitting its place in the story rather nicely. But perhaps the funniest aspect of the show is Matt Blanchard's absurd narration. His unusual metaphors set the tone for the tongue-in-cheek tunes to follow, evoking the hallowed flavor of Tenacious D and Spinal Tap.

Having devoted more than a year of work to this epic poem and testing its malevolent powers on audiences of friends, the Daredevils are now ready to spring their awesome creation on the world. Will Rygar manage to defeat the vicious Aldermen at their own game? Will he repossess the powerful "knowledge" and lead Orangia out of their darkest day? Will Flo manage to rid herself of that putrescent aroma? You'll have to attend the official world premiere of Strongneck at Tyler's Taproom in Carrboro, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. to find out. EndBlock

More by Zach Hanner

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