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Neighbors frown at Ybor City club's gag

A Masquerade poster advertising a death metal band outrages businesses, who say it doesn't help the area's image.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 25, 2002


The posters promised a scary night at Ybor City's Masquerade.

"Animal sacrifices," "the bloodiest show ever" and, to top it off, "a guest appearance by the devil."

Club managers say the fliers were a Halloween gag to promote Sunday's concert by Throat Cutter, a satanic heavy metal band.

Not everyone laughed.

A day after the signs went up, Masquerade got a few calls from Ybor business owners outraged by the show. Are you really killing animals? Isn't that illegal?

Manager Tom DeGeorge assured the poster exaggerated the truth. No one would murder innocent creatures; only toy pinatas were at risk. And as for the devil's appearance, that was anyone's guess.

"It wasn't intended in any way to be taken seriously," said DeGeorge, a self-proclaimed animal lover who has a Rottweiler named Diesel.

To avoid further confusion and ill will, Masquerade took down the posters in the windows facing Seventh Avenue. They kept one inside to show people who asked. It's black and white with skeletons.

Ybor officials say the signs -- harmless or not -- don't help to improve the area's image. Since the Centro Ybor entertainment complex opened two years ago, city and business leaders have worked hard to portray Ybor as a fun place for the entire family. They often butt heads with club owners catering to the edgy, raucous party crowd.

"We have a very strong marketing committee and they are doing a lot to promote Ybor as a gentle, kinder Ybor," said Vince Pardo, executive director of the Ybor City Development Corp. "This doesn't add to improve the image."

As a liaison between the city and Ybor businesses, Pardo called Masquerade's landlord, Joe Capitano Sr., to voice his concerns.

Capitano, who owns the building at 1503 E Seventh Ave., said he didn't like the posters but couldn't do much about them. Masquerade has a long-term lease and didn't break any laws.

"I had a problem with it, but they explained that it was just a prank," he said.

Throat Cutter is a death metal band of five musicians in their 20s who play in small venues and write their own songs. They have long, black hair and painted faces and are reputed to drink something that looks like blood.

"Really, really scary," is how one concertgoer described them on the Internet after a March 2001 concert at the Brass Mug on Fletcher Avenue. Their latest CD, Music to Kill Yourself To, includes the songs Disembowel You and Sacrifice Your Neighbors Pets.

The band makes bat-biting Ozzy Osbourne seem almost tame.

Throat Cutter ultimately was banned from the Brass Mug because the lead singer dumped 2 gallons of bloodlike liquid on the stage. Bar manager Heather Scott said it took two weeks to clean up.

To this day, she still doesn't know if it was real blood.

"It was absolutely ridiculous," she said. "They destroyed a lot of equipment."

Original band members are from Romania but live in Tampa and sing in English, said drummer Tim Johnson of New Port Richey. He joined the group a few months ago after the former drummer committed suicide.

He wasn't around for the Brass Mug episode but knows the band is no longer welcome there. The lead members, MC Goth and Bloody Death, couldn't be reached to tell their side of the story.

Johnson said the band knows about the poster controversy and didn't object to taking them down. Throat Cutter doesn't need the fliers, he said. It has a large enough following.

"They are really underground," he said.

Masquerade officials expect a small, but devoted, audience at Sunday's show, which costs $5 per person. The club doesn't make much off Sunday concerts but holds them to give young bands a chance to perform, DeGeorge said.

He never expected a promotional flier to get any attention.

"I'm surprised there aren't other things more newsworthy in Ybor City," he said. "It was meant to be a joke."

-- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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