Meet Madonnica. Madonnica is a Madonna tribute band unlike anything this Madonna fan has ever encountered in the past 30 years or so of following M’s career. This band dares to mix two musical genres that no one in their right mind thought could ever mix. They took Madonna’s most classic pop hits, stripped them of their pop sound, and turned them into hard rock/heavy metal songs–making them the first Madonna metal tribute band in the world.
Madonnica was the headlining band at the legendary Viper Room in West Hollywood this past Friday. Band members include Bill Crawford (guitar), Greg Yarber (guitar), Michael Wallace (bass), Chip Rainone (drums) and Melody Schoenfeld is front and center as the lead vocalist. Alternative/metal band Core 10 opened the night. They were followed by special guest Alex Cole who was celebrating the release if his latest single “I’m Not Gonna Take it Slow.”
I found The Viper Room gig by accident on a Facebook post. I saw the words Madonna and metal music in one sentence and immediately thought this could be interesting. My ass just HAD to be there, because Madonna metal is something one does not encounter on a daily basis. It promised to be different.
Of course, the night of, I found myself walking to The Viper Room alone. I know some people who like metal music and I know a ton of people who love Madonna, but I don’t have too many friends who like them both.
I’m a rare breed where I’m a hardcore Madonna fan, and I also have some love for rock/metal music, but mostly in the shape of Marilyn Manson. I’ve been a fan of MM since I first saw him perform “The Beautiful People” at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1997 (I loved watching Will Smith gather his children and make a run for it). “Third Day of a Seven Day Binge” and “Cupid’s Got a Gun” are in heavy rotation in my iPod currently, so I wouldn’t be completely out of my element with some screaming electric guitars in my face.
The Viper room is a small venue. There is no backstage with dressing rooms for acts to hang out at while they wait their turn on stage. When I arrived, I sort of recognized the woman sitting in a booth facing the stage. She wore a trench coat and the iconic I Dream of Genie ponytail on her head. I couldn’t tell if she was Melody at first, because the place was dark and the noise was disorienting. She sat there bouncing her head to Alex Cole, but there was a nervous, excited, and at moments terrified energy coming out of her little body that I figured it had to be her.
I gave her a few side-glances and then decided to hit her up to take a picture with me, because it’s like, why not?
Madonnica finally took the stage a little bit after midnight. The night began with an edgy guitar laced version of Material Girl and I was immediately hooked. What followed was an evening of name that tune whenever the electric guitars battled it out to take us to the next song. They stuck to M’s most popular catalogue from the 80s and 90s, so everyone could sing along.
Highlights for me were Like A Virgin, Like A Prayer, Dress You Up, and it surprised me how much I absolutely loved the metal version of Frozen, which is my ultimately favorite Madonna song. Into the Groove was also a standout for me in that I’d never heard anything like it and she sang it way better than the big M, I hate to admit.
The only moment I could not get into was the metal version of Vogue, but that’s only because…well, it’s Vogue. I don’t know, maybe it was a little too heavy on the metal for my taste, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it.
How did metalhead Melody fare as the lead singer of Madonnica? She gave you a Madonna nod without coming off like a Madonna wannabe. She’s tiny in stature, but commands a larger than life presence very much like Madonna. There were costume changes, she struck a few Madonna poses, but the singing and screaming was all M for Melody and (I hate to go there) it was also live vocals from beginning to end. Her voice packs a powerful punch for such a small person. There was no relying on video backdrops, backup dancers or cheesy choreography. It was what a Madonna performance must’ve been like during her early years in New York when she was trying to make it in the punk scene.
The crowd was into it. There were plenty of cute inebriated straight boys playing air guitar and trying to start a mosh pit smash up. They kept bumping into me, but I didn’t mind (did I mention they were cute?). Plenty of women were in the audience singing and bobbing their heads to the bass. And of course, I could single out the gay guys who were there for the Madonna elements, because they (we) were the only ones wearing Madonna t-shirts that night. I don’t know why, but I gave you a red Boy Toy tank top from M’s Rebel Heart Tour. It’s like I got some telepathic memo or some shit.
The night ended on a high note with an electric guitar-laced version of Express Yourself. Melody introduced the band members in the middle of that last number. You get the sense that she really likes the guys she performs with. There were no diva moments where she was the star and they were mere props to make her shine.
People screamed for an encore after Express Yourself was done, but the curtain slid across the stage and we all formed a line to squeeze down the narrow staircase and made an exit with metal music vibrating in our heads.
I had fun. Madonna’s pop songs translated through a heavy metal band was waaayyy different. It was loud. It was edgy. And it was well worth getting soaking wet after I stepped outside into some crazy ass unexpected rain. I parked close to Santa Monica Boulevard, so I had plenty of time to come up with my own hard metal version of Madonna’s “Rain.”
Madonnica was indeed all the rage at The Viper Room this past weekend. I’m definitely catching this act again and I’m inviting everyone I can to join me.
To learn more about the only Madonna metal tribute band in the world, visit madonnicaband.com