Bushwhacker bound for the Big Smoke

Geoff Woods isn’t your typical classical music buff. The 19-year-old has a pierced lip and long hair that tumbles past his shoulders. He wears jeans, a leather jacket and a black T-shirt that bears a picture of a ghoul.

Geoff Woods isn’t your typical classical music buff.

The 19-year-old has a pierced lip and long hair that tumbles past his shoulders. He wears jeans, a leather jacket and a black T-shirt that bears a picture of a ghoul.

He is, in short, a metalhead. So it may be a surprise that his band, Bushwhacker, names Ludwig van Beethoven and Gustav Holst, among their influences.

Or maybe not.

Music critics like Robert Walser have noted similarities between the virtuosic performances of 18th-century European composers and modern metalheads.

Some metal guitarists, such as Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoades, have made this connection explicit.

Woods admires Beethoven’s tunes. But he doesn’t listen to them before a show.

Instead, he throws on Lady Gaga, cranks up his truck stereo and rolls down the windows.

Metalheads are constantly trying to out-do each other with tough-guy, macho posturing. After a while, it becomes pompous and predictable.

And what better way to deflate those pretensions, Woods reasoned, than to blare Lady Gaga’s music, which critic Simon Reynolds memorably described as “ruthlessly catchy naughties pop glazed with Auto-Tune and undergirded with R&B-ish beats?”

He’s found it’s an excellent way to throw fellow metalheads off balance.

Tonight is your last chance to hear Bushwhacker – at least in Whitehorse for 2011. After having played the Frostbite, Sunstroke and the Atlin music festivals, the band is now preparing for a tour of Western Canada.

They have no idea when they’ll be back. Following the tour, the band plans to move to Vancouver and try to make it big.

Woods and Cavan Egan sing and play guitar. Sean Komaromi is on drums. Keenan Dennehy plays bass.

They’re all born-and-raised Yukoners. Metal began to appeal around high school. Listening to it produced the same excitement as watching a horror movie.

They formed their band in high school, under the name Minotaur.

Thrash-metal bands like Slayer and Metallica proved to be early influences. Later, Bushwhacker’s members began to absorb influences from progressive and psychedelic rock groups like Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Jethro Tull.

“Now we’re trying to blend our sound to have more depth,” said Woods. The goal, he said, is to take the audience “somewhere in a trance to meditate, and then scare them all over again.”

Bushwhacker’s played the occasional cover of a Black Sabbath song, but they’ve avoided the trap of starting as a cover band.

“If anyone’s going to say we suck, it’s when we do a cover,” said Woods. “People tend to be more judgmental.”

Bushwhacker recorded their first independently produced album earlier this year. It’s recorded by Jim Holland, has six tracks and runs 45 minutes.

They recently bought a 1980 GMC van in Vancouver for the tour. It’s been converted into a motorhome, with vintage decor inside: wood panelling, red seating and brown carpeting.

Unfortunately, the vendor proved to be a “total shyster,” said Woods. First the van broke down in Prince George. Then the engine seized outside Watson Lake.

Moving to Vancouver is a big jump for the band. None of them have dayjobs lined up. Most the members currently live with their parents.

“I’d rather do this and fail miserably than live with a what-if for the rest of my life,” said Woods. “It’s just taking that leap of faith.”

Tonight’s show starts at 10 p.m. at Foxy’s Cabaret. Tickets are $5 at the door.

Living in Thought opens. Death in Venice will play a final act.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.