There Ain’t No Party Like a Rock-Afire Party

I have what could be delicately described as an….obsessive personality type.  For the latter half of my life, my leisure time has been dedicated to any number of irrational passions, including but not limited to:

  • Comic books [twice, as a preteen and as an adult]
  • Anime
  • Japanese horror/extreme cinema
  • Designer vinyl figures
  • Sneakers, fitted hats and the coordination of the two.

An expensive summer of wedding attendance and all around focus on increased fiscal responsibility has lead to the sale or removal of many of the items acquired in pursuit of these various fixations, but the mindset never goes away.  If anything, I’ve tried directing those energies into this blog, since I’m a little anxious to think of what I would do without some outlet to pour them into.

As an obsessive, I appreciate and am fascinated by the level of dedication other people bring to the things that capture their imaginations, and am the target market for the new wave of documentary films that chronicle these quests like King of Kong or Man on Wire.

But I don’t know if anything is as wonderfully batshit crazy as the fandome behind The Rock-Afire Explosion.

My Canadians might not know this, but in the 80s Chuck E. Cheese had some strong competition from Showbiz Pizza Place.  Each establishment followed the same formula: arcade games, pizza that I’m sure listed sodium as the second ingredient and animatronic, anthropomorphic animals.

Oh God, yes.

When I was a kid I remember being enthralled by the ads for Showbiz Pizza Place.  Like I’ve said before, kids who grew up in Windsor are bombarded by US advertisements for things we will never have, and the ads for Showbiz made it look like Shangri-La.  In a world of Xboxes and backyard skateboard parks, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese seem quaint by comparison, but for an 80s eight-year-old it was inconceivable that someone would put that much awesome in one room.  And the feature attraction for Showbiz was the stage show, starring a band of animatronic animals called The Rock-Afire Explosion.

Now times change, Showbiz got bought out, and the Explosion retired.  That should have been it. But if we’ve learned anything from the times we live in, friends, it’s that no one ever has to let anything go.  Memories lead to fandom, fandom becomes obsession, and suddenly a DJ from Alabama has it in his head that he’s going to buy up the remaining animatronics and rebuild the full band in his garage.  Of course this must be documented.

The documentary is out now, and I honestly can’t wait to watch it. I love how the music in that trailer perfectly captures the sad melancholy of missing something so insubstantial so much.

But the story doesn’t end there!  Once Thrash completed his set, he [and Rock-Afire creator Aaron Fechter] began reprogramming the characters to perform contemporary songs, filming the performances and putting them on YouTube. And this is where we move from weird pop culture fossil back around to….I don’t know what.

The fanatic in me can certainly appreciate the level of dedication that goes into something like this. I appreciate it so much I can overlook how goddamned creepy it is. So much more, including footage of a guy named Charlie who wanted to give his sister Amy the best 30th birthday party ever, can be found on The Explosion’s YouTube channel.

The saddest part is I can’t even make fun, because if I had the resources, I would totally have something similar in my backyard.  Salute, good sirs.


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