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Notes On Lost Hallow 5: Sophia Suarez, The Herbalist

herbalist steampunk gothic western cabaret

Sophia Suarez is the town herbalist. This puts her practically on par with the Doctor, Doc Svendsen. The town of Lost Hallow does not have a drugstore nor a pharmacy, there is just Sophia’s Herb Shop, which has the cure for most anything that ails you. Anything, that is, that you at least stand a chance of coming out the other side of alive.

There was a feller some years ago who did try to open a pharmacy and he stayed open a little over a year. Fact is, he couldn’t do near the job Sophia does and he specialized in pills and needles. Reglar folk don’t like pills and needles. Sophia’s got herbs and teas. Folks like herbs and tea. And she doesn’t just have stuff for curing your sickness, she’s got herbs for pep, herbs for relaxation, herbs for a cheery disposition, herbs for concentration, herbs for alleviating existential dread, herbs that’ll make music sound like a choir of gawdam angels,  herbs that will make you giggle til you spit your drink up all over the table and for the discriminating connoisseur, herbs that will trip your balls off til next tues.

Sophia can mix up the most incredible concoctions to help with the oddest things imaginable. It’s a true talent, although when asked about it she claims she communicates with the plants themselves who tell her how they can be used and mixed with others, and sometimes communes with the Green Man who discusses primal and arcane botanical philosophies with her.

Once every season Sophia goes away for a weekend, so to speak. She’s got a place on the mountain that shes goes to where she grows a lot of what’s in the store, and she consumes a very special little something she grows and mixes herself. You could say that she trips her face off, but looky here, we’re not talking about some thrill seeking young collegian out to drool at the pretty colors. She is deadly serious and personally, i have no doubt she goes to some kind of sub reality and talks directly to the plant spirits.

As to how this all started,  pull up a seat.

I don’t know who you are or how much you know or remember, but some years ago, back when Sophia was just a teenager, there was this real popular series of books by Michael Mendelson in which he meets some kind of aboriginal shaman and learns all about all sorts of strange native sorcery and magic and using all kinds of weird drugs to open the mind’s hidden powers…and stuff like that. You kids probably don’t know much about it these days, but they were huge back in the day. That Mendelson fellow made a killin’ and all kinds of spiritual seekers and just plain outright flakes were singin’ his praises there for awhile.

Well little teenage Sophia got ahold of a few of them books. She didn’t have no one to talk about them with ’til she started hangin’ around Fenna O’Kelly a few years later, and certainly no access to anyone who would show her any of them rituals or drugs or nothing, so she did it all by herself. She went out to the mountain and picked all sorts of herbs and stuff and tried to recreate them magic rituals and over the course of a few years from about 17 to 22 just taught herself all this crazy stuff. She became able to pull off some weird shit. She also started actually… well…. peeling down the layers of the onion of reality which eventually got her communicatin’ to the plants and Green Man, but that came a little later.

So Sophia learned to smoke and eat a bunch of strange plants and do a heap of magical kind of stuff. And she decides now that she’s a grown woman, being 22 and all, that she should learn at the feet of the master. So she goes and tracks down ol’ Michael Mendelson himself. Takes her a heck of an effort to travel to him but she finally gets there and announces herself. She thinks maybe he might remember her from the letters she sent him, but seein’ as he never wrote back and gets a whole heap of mail, it wasn’t any great surprise he didn’t know her or expect her.

But he’s got some disciples who hang about, mostly women, and he tells her she’s welcome too and off he takes her to interview her and see where she is spiritually. And by “interview her and see where she is spiritually” i mean off he goes to get her somewhere where he can set about parting her from her clothing.   You know, take….  a real personal inventory.

So he’s doing this “interview” as he often does with these doe eyed girls who come flocking round, and from the way she worships him he is all but ripping his clothes off in expectation. She however keeps wanting to discuss minutia about the rituals in the books. He just smiles and nods and says some very vague, platitude kind of stuff as he’s working the buttons off her blouse. Finally, getting a little frustrated at his not answering her questions before he boffs her (she’s okay with the boffing in theory, but she really, really wanted some of these questions answered) she tells him to hang on, she’s gonna show him where her trouble is directly and proceeds to perform one of them reality bending spells  which works for a minute, but then falls apart. Then she looks at him to ask what is she messing up that she can’t keep it going.

Except, Mr. Mendelson’s erection has shriveled to a dead shrimp and his mouth is hanging open and he’s got this look of… well somewhere between “wtf” and outright horror. He’s sort of sitting on the floor but crawling away at the same time. And Sophia is real confused. I mean, she knows she fucked up the spell, but how bad could she possibly have fucked it up? She looks around to make sure she didn’t damage or curse anything or summon an elder god or something, but everything seems fine. So she keeps asking him What? What? What did she do? She wants to know what she did wrong. She’s been trying to fix it for months.

He asks her to do it again. She does and this time she even keeps the ball of  bent reality going for a couple minutes, a new record for her. But Michael is just white as a ghost. He asks what other stuff she can do and she goes down some of his spells, performing them, and apologizing and explaining to him what she had to do differently since she didn’t have access to the same stuff he did. Afterwards he mumbles through some more vague platitudes but he has real trouble putting words together.

She sticks around a little bit, about a week, enough to figure out this:

Michael Mendelson was more full of shit than the Danbury’s outhouse that time last summer they threw that chili cookoff. He had never met an aboriginal shaman, he had never learned all those spiritual secrets, he had never actually had any spell or ritual produce any result ever. He had written the first book as a college paper, making up the encounter but filling out the ritual details with random stuff he had gotten out of old occultish library books and botanical tombs that showed how to make psychoactive compounds from various plants. He hadn’t expected the book to be sold to a general public much less make a shitload of money, but when it did, he repeated this winning formula for the next two books. By now he was wealthy and gettin’ laid like a king.

Then Sophia came along and actually had enough God given raw talent that she made it work. It helped that the occult books Mendelson had copied turned out to be relatively on the level. And what had kick started Sophia’s talents and abilities was ingesting the herbal brews she had concocted.

Thus Sophia left that flabbergasted douchebag and returned to Lost Hallow where she began a dedicated course of self study. She and Feena O’Kelly worked together a lot in those day, Feena exploring her own esoteric interests which make her such a competent seer. It was about this time that those rumors started up about how the two of them are sleeping together, rumors which pop up every few years, but not only do i not know if this is true or not, i reckon it ain’t anybody’s business but theirs.

Sophia’s psychoactive endeavors finally hit an epiphany when she achieved communication with certain plants. It was the beginning of a whole new world. However, they were very clear to her: if she wanted to develop a relationship, continue communing with them and set down a path that would lead to, among other things, meeting the Green Man, she had to quit with that sorcery crap she had picked up from Mendelson’s books. Non reality is abhorrent to plants. Human consciousness is non real enough and the stink of human consciousness mucking about in sorcery they likened to trying to hold a conversation with a pig who’s rolling in his own feces, masturbating. You know, good luck and all pig, but they ain’t stickin’ around to watch.

It was a no brainer for Sophia.

Thus have them years passed. Sophia has collected herbs from all over the world. Stuff folks claim cannot grow in the climate of Lost Hallow Sophia can grow. Sometimes. She’ll be the first to tell you she’s failed a lot more than causal customers will ever know and there’s things that should never be taken outside of its native region. Wise she has become, and like i said, you got something that ails you physically or maybe mentally or even in some cases spiritually, go by Sophia’s Herb Store. If she can’t cured what ails you, well son… then you got yourself a problem.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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5 Awesome Gothic Western Songs

Out of the two genres i’m currently subsuming the most, it’s Gothic Western that has me the most excited. I knew about and have listened to Dark Cabaret, but Gothic Western is a new candyland of music i really like, really inspires me, and is basically untapped.

Oh sure, the genre has roots in things i already love, like Tom Waits and some of Johnny Cash’s (especially later) work as well as bits and dollops of things i pick up here and there. But as a whole the genre is until now just outside my radar and the artists currently working it unknown to me and i’ve been playing this in the car more than anything else. The mood is just wonderful and combining this with Dark Cabaret… the possibilities are legion.

I’m almost done with the first song of the Gothic Western Steampunk Cabaret. We’re forgoing overtures this time around. Cabarets do not have overture, they cut right to the chase. So while i putter away, here are 5 tracks from the Western Gothic genre that i particularly enjoy:

Christian Williams

 

Tenhi

 

I Am Oak

 

The Undertaker

 

The Letter

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Character Sketches: Miss Hannah 1 by Sarah de Buck

Character Sketches: Miss Hannah 1 by Sarah de Buck

Most character sketches by the wonderful Sarah de Buck, this one the Mistress of Ceremonies for the Cabaret, Miss Hannah herself.  Currently i’m toying with the Cabaret having her name in it, (Miss Hannah’s something and something appropriately descriptive Cabaret) but it’s not… quite… coming to me. We’ll see.

I got Miss Hannah’s backstory down while writing that Carnival bit the other day, the jist of which i think you can garner, but i can’t publish the full bit since it’s an entire song in the Cabaret and i’m very intentionally not publishing anything that’s contained in the album online. There’s plenty of other details and more to come.

There’s some talk of doing a map of Lost Hallow, some sketches of Miss Hannah in performance attire, and i might add one more character to Cabaret as possible guest spot. You know, like a The Miller’s Son bit where someone comes out of nowhere and sings a little fun guest song. I don’t know if i’ll be able to fit it in, but since i need a stage hand for the Cabaret and they might as well have some moment to shine as long as they’re technically up there, this would solve that. My current thoughts are either a guest song by the Bartender of Sophia Suarez, who only existed as an off the top of the head concoction of the Notes On Lost Hallow, but who i’m kind of becoming really enamored with and may have a slight crush on.

In any case, here are the latest sketched by Sarah de Buck. You can also check out her deviant art page at http://saraah11.deviantart.com

miss hannah gothic western steampunk dark cabaret character concept art sarah de buck paul shapera

Miss Hannah version 1

h2

Miss Hannah version 1

h4

Miss Hannah version 1

h3

Miss Hannah version 1

h5

Miss Hannah version 1

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Mister Joe Black: Cabaret Misfit

Well THIS is interesting.

Today we feature neo-cabaret artists Mister Joe Black, whose brand of dark, dolly-watching-you-while-you-sleep-and-grinning kind of cabaret is filled with personality, wit, and weirdness.

“The neo-vaudevillian, the real life Disney villain, the gin-addled courtesan, the anti-christ of cabaret and the one and only waltzing cynic…

Eccentric to international stages, Joe Black takes to shows in an almost cartoon-esque theatrical assault,
sweeping the audiences through an array of show tunes, ballads, and a rather varied but fine selection of morally questionable entertainment. ”

Twisted purveyour of gothic cabaret, “An accordion-playing lovechild of Danny Elfman and a gin-addled courtesan”, “Like making a conference call to Bedlam lunatic asylum; It’s like you’re conducting a pleasant-yet-bonkers chit chat with several people”, inspiring you to finally follow your “dream of burning down an orphanage, drinking whiskey and stowing away on a pirate ship”, Mister Joe Black is based in England (as far as i can tell) but does cabarets and shows across Europe and in the US and Australia.

Here’s another little gem:

For more info and whatnot you can visit his website at www.misterjoeblack.com as well as his Youtube channel.

And lastly a promotional music video for the title track from upcoming Joe Black halloween release ‘Vile Volumes for Villainous Children’

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Tiger Lillies

In the genre of Dark Cabaret, these guys are the one eyed, alcoholic, prostitute pimping, donkey show organizing Fathers of the genre. They’ve been around since 1989, before the 1990s neo burlesque scene and the post 2000 coinage of the Dark Cabaret genre title.

I saw them in concert a few years ago knowing nothing about them, and they were awesome. And utterly unique. And dark. Definitely dark (they were once described as Surrealist Pornography), but with that polite neo-victorian style.

Let me save my breath and give you an example.

This was one of those rare concerts where you’re seeing a band for the very first time and smack in the middle realize you could simply sit here all night and watch them play their nihilist Dickensian showcase.

The singer, Martyn Jacques, apparently trained himself as a castrati style opera singer, whilst living alone above a strip joint in Soho for seven years. Which… you know… makes a whole lot of sense.

They even wrote an opera, a “junk opera”, Shockheaded Peter. Shockheaded Peter is based on a popular German children’s book from the mid 1800s in which a series of children’s stories, using rhyme as you can imagine, “demonstrate the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way”. The biggest difference is in the book, occasionally a child lives. In the junk opera, every child in every tale dies.

Tell me you’re not dying to hear a tale?

I am, so let us to the video room go.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Birdeatsbaby

Just fyi, i finished the music for the first act last night. But since i won’t be posting anything on that today, let’s take a look at another awesome Dark Cabaret band.

Birdeatsbaby is self described as alt-classical-prog-punks, the description alone being enough to make me want to check them out. But before i had run across that awesome little description i ran across this song:

I know, right? Awesomeness.

Other than that, i can tell you they’re from Brighton, but for more information you can go to their website http://www.birdeatsbaby.co.uk/ which has music, a blog, photos, and additional awesome videos. I imagine they would be a blast to see live.

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Wednesday’s Child by Vermillion Lies

Vermillion Lies is a sister act made up of  Zoe and Kim Boekbinder. They, to quote, “have spent their lives honing their craft at clown boot camp and the local dump, where they found their favorite instruments like toy piano, accordion, typewriter, and BBQ grill. The live show involves the sisters pulling their odd instruments out of a large trunk onstage before each song, prompting the audience to ask, “What’s in the box?” which incidentally is the name of their brand new album.”

They also wrote this absolutely kick ass song, which i dug up in my quest for inspirational music for the Opera, and which really needs to be shared.

They have a blog here: http://vermillionlies.blogspot.com/

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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