Smiling Sacrifice brings punk rock to the Machine Shop

Ed Davis, The Flint Journal, Wed, January 26, 2011

Members of Smiling Sacrifice are, from left, Brian O'Leary, Ross Barkey, Brian Orr,
Paul Wood and El Fonz.

FLINT — After years of honing their skills in other bands and getting together for some reunion shows, Smiling Sacrifice is ready to rock The Machine Shop like it’s 1985.

Smiling Sacrifice is one of the old-school Flint punk rock bands, along with Political Silence and Disposable Society, opening for Dirty Rotten Imbeciles this Friday.

“It’s fitting that we’re opening for D.R.I.,” said bassist Ross “R.B. Suave” Barkey, “because I was inspired to start a band after seeing Dissonance, Corrosion of Conformity and D.R.I. at Krishna Grotto in 1985.”

Barkey and Smiling Sacrifice singer Brian “The O Man” Orr were two of many young Flint punk rock fans who went to hall shows in the 1980s at venues like Krishna Grotto, the Ukranian Hall and the Capitol Theatre. The pair said that once they realized that Flint hardcore and punk bands like Repulsion and Dissonance were made up of guys who were around their age, there was no reason why they couldn’t do it.

Trouble was, Barkey didn’t even own an instrument at that time.

“I knew I wanted to start a band, so I talked to Brian about it,” Barkey said. “And Brian was on board. I was originally going to be the singer, but when I found out that Brian was already working on songs, I told him he could be the singer and I went out and bought a bass.”

The pair started Johnny Slaughter and the Meat Patrol, the band that eventually became Smiling Sacrifice.

“We did some shows, but quickly realized that the name was too long,” Orr said. “About that time, we wanted to add a guitar player, so a mutual friend introduced us to Paul Wood, a really good guitar player who was already experienced.”

“Once Paul joined,” Barkey said, “we changed the name to Smiling Sacrifice and we got a lot better.”

Wood was a dark influence on the band, but in a good way, Orr said.

“We were all fans of bands like The Misfits and Repulsion,” Orr said, “plus we have a thing for horror movies, so it made more sense for us to write songs about death instead of songs about girls.”

Barkey said, “And there’s still a death in every song, guaranteed. We’ve also got the visual showmanship that comes with having Brian Orr in your band.”

The visual and theatrical elements, Orr said, are sometimes subtle, but often more obvious.

“We did one show on ‘Take No Prisoners’ in 1990, where I was started off as a virgin bride, complete with a white wedding dress,” Orr said. “About halfway through the set, I stripped out of the wedding dress and performed the rest of the show wrapped only in Saran wrap.”

That show is up on

The three original members of Smiling Sacrifice are joined in Friday’s reunion by guitarist Brian O’Leary and a masked drummer named El Fonz, who may have wrestled a shark, been raised by wolves and been a member of Good Charlotte, depending on who’s telling the story.

O’Leary said he remembers seeing Smiling Sacrifice during an earlier incarnation at hall shows.

“It’s kind of funny to be in this band now because I saw them so many times,” O’Leary said. “I was a huge fan, and I learned to play guitar listening to the Smiling Sacrifice tape, trying my best to keep up with Paul. His solos are just amazing, and he actually writes them. It’s been great to rehearse with him.”

El Fonz is another fan who says he’s glad he got a chance to play in Smiling Sacrifice.

“Smiling Sacrifice was the first show I saw,” El Fonz said. “Growing up, they were a band you would sneak out to see. I was 14 at that first show, so to play with them now is really cool.

“Going to punk shows at 14 was quite an education for me,” El Fonz said. “I got to see so many great local bands and the touring bands who would make a stop in Flint.”

Some of the touring bands Smiling Sacrifice opened for include SNFU, The Rhythm Pigs, Ugly But Proud and Elvis Hitler, as well as local legends Repulsion and Political Silence.

“We’re excited to be on a bill with Political Silence again,” Orr said. “They tore it up at Earpfest just like it was the ‘80s all over again.”

Barkey added, “It doesn’t hurt that they were one of the best bands of that early Flint punk scene. Sharing the bill with them is one of the best things about us getting back together.”

Whether the reunion will last through the week or for 10 years is anyone’s guess, but Orr said that as long as they’re having fun, they’ll keep working together and probably do some recording and more live shows.

“We used to always say that Smiling Sacrifice was loud, hard and fast,” Orr said. “But now we like to say we’re louder, harder, faster and stronger.”