Back in 2016, I described my love for the band Skeleton Key thusly…
As I mentioned above, I’d first heard of Erik by way of his band Skeleton Key, who were easily one of my favorite discoveries of the `90s. Like a hiccupy cross between, say, early Devo and Pussy Galore — or maybe a less scowly Cop Shoot Cop — Skeleton Key made a gloriously skewed-but-tuneful cacophony. Like both C$C and Pussy Galore, the band featured a distinctive percussionist — initially a spiky haired gent named Rick Lee — who smacked the shit out of a variety of found metal implements, among them pots, pans, a fire extinguisher, a child’s red wagon and various other sundry items. In addition to Lee’s clamorous arsenal, the first iteration of the band also featured powerhouse drummer Steve Calhoon. In front of those two were guitarist/vocalist Chris Maxwell and bassist, vocalist, bandleader and former Lounge Lizard Erik Sanko.
That particular line-up of the band recorded an e.p. and one full album — the truly amazing Fantastic Spikes Through Balloon — before attrition started to take its toll, leaving Erik as the only mainstay from the original four. He kept the band going, though, recording two more consistently distinctive albums that retained the band’s signature brand of propulsive rock racket.
Indeed, the original line-up for Skeleton Key dissolved around 1999, although Erik kept the band going through 2012. In the interim, Erik also toured with Firewater and released a solo record, but his primary focus has been his work with the creative collective, Phantom Limb. Following their days in Skeleton Key, Lee and Calhoun formed Enon with John Schmersal from Braniac for a bit, but not sure what they’ve gone onto since. Guitarist Chris Maxwell currently pursues a solo career and, I believe, does music for the animated show “Bob’s Burgers.”
But back in 1997, the original line-up of Skeleton Key was just an insane live band that was not to be missed. Bizarrely, very little video evidence of that first line-up exists, beyond a weird appearance on MTV (see that old post). But a YouTuber called Mike’s Music Archive uploaded a live show quite recently taped at CBGB, and it is amazing to behold. See that below.
This was recorded on the New Year’s Eve of December 31, 1997. The Jesus Lizard was the headliner. I first posted this video on Facebook, and Erik mentioned that at the very end, Danny Elfman of Oingo Boingo emrges from the dressing room.
Anyway, … enjoy!