Richmond, VA – I remember that autumn night in 1980 like it was yesterday. My experience with horror movies up until then was relegated to the likes of Bella Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Lon Chaney Jr. On that night, I was introduced to the one and only Ari Lehman, the actor who played the very first Jason Voorhees in the now-infamous “Friday the 13th” series. While his screen time was very short-lived, the memories and nightmares have haunted me until this very day. On October 17th, 2020, at Rick’s Rock Café, I was finally able to come face to face with that haunting figure as his band, First Jason, took to the stage.
Kicking off a killer night, local cover band 120 Proof played a mix of 80s and early 90s glam metal and rock hits. Complete with big hair, lots of guitar and showy drums, we were treated to hard-pounding, party anthems that have had a huge influence on today’s rock and metal… without so much hair.
Next on the agenda for the evening was local comedian and actor, Ray Bullock. Ray primed the audience with a little Halloween humor, fitting for the performance that we were all there to see.
Finally, the showdown was set. Ari took to the stage, complete with metal keytar. Accompanied by bassist Johnny Danger and Drummer Fabian Arroyo, they opened with “Machete Is My Friend“, a hard pounding rock tune that would wake Jason from his grave (again).
While listening, one of the first things that came to mind was how well he had aged. Looking nothing like the young lad that leaped from the depths of Crystal Lake to grab the lone surviving camper, Ari looked quite alive. I was confident this new look and sound would help put an end to the 40 years of nightmares that resulted from my first experience with the young Voorhees.
A classically-trained pianist, Ari’s fingers moved across the high distortion keytar with (thankfully) more grace than a machete in the hand of Jason. His classical training came to light as he introduced a largely rock and metal audience to a little metallic Bach with a brief passage from Toccata and Fugue. While all of the songs were somewhat spoofy of the movie series, the music was very serious. Admittedly, I had never considered keyboards as a metal instrument, but after hearing Ari play, I want to hear more. Ode to Joy (or blood) perhaps?
The audience was even treated to an appearance of a very realistic Jason, who stepped on the stage with Ari and the band. The character then moved to the crowd, having an interaction with the audience that was intense and quite convincing. In the season of COVID, at least he was wearing his mask.
As the night continued, Ari played several more Jason related tunes including “Voorhees Is My Name” and “Victim“. The songs were hard-pounding, metal-sounding, all on keys and fun. Who would have thought Jason could rock so hard?
This encounter with Jason was much different than the one 40 years ago. On my drive home, I did not find myself looking to the forest in anticipation of a machete-wielding mother or speeding up to cross a bridge over a potential burial lake for oversexed campers. I was amped and feeling good! As expected, the First Jason killed again, but this time in a rockin’ way! I can’t wait until he comes around again.
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Machete Is My Friend
Kill For Mother
Red Red Red
Jason is Watching
Sink or Swim
Power From the Pain
Clock Strikes 13
Voorhees is the Name
Jason Never Dies