Jill Janus’ Huntress Tour Diary: Wearing Heels Onstage, Ozzfest Meets Knotfest, Being Starstruck + More
Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus is a guest blogger for Loudwire. In this tour diary, she recaps her nerves from before the advent of the band's tour with Trivium and Sabaton, which kicked off with a smattering of headlining gigs as September Mourning provided support. Opening up about her meltdown which temporarily disbanded Huntress, Janus gets introspective revealing how she centers herself on the road. Taking us through her favorite moments on the trek, the post wraps up with their Ozzfest Meets Knotfest slot and the highlights that ensued.
The night before tour always brings a strange rush of happiness and panic. For me, those emotions subside at load in when the gear is being hauled on to the stage. The musty lingering scent of decaying velvet curtains takes me back to childhood… tap shoes and crumbling dressing rooms, ventriloquists lurking in the wings, 16th note runs of the coloratura soprano and bouquets of carnation flowers dying in vases of stagnant water near my bedside. I grew up within the walls of Orpheus Theatre, a vaudeville playhouse in upstate New York. The nostalgia returns and lingers all night. I’ve always known my purpose and I know where I belong. I am an entertainer.
It’s vital that I remember this. Huntress is entertainment. Merging reality and make-believe have wounded me in the past. Much like an actor going all method, it was becoming increasingly difficult to leave the characters I created with Huntress. Almost one year ago my selfishness nearly destroyed Huntress. Suffering emotionally from the aftermath of surgery and untreated mental disorders, I blamed my band for the cancer in my womb and for the subsequent hysterectomy. The tumor was removed and I’m now cancer-free. Yet I continued to blame my band for my continued struggle with bipolar disorder. With one swift delusional post on social media, Huntress would never be the same again. The heartache was far worse after I broke up the band for the span of a few damaging hours, then attempted to rapidly mend it. This triggered my moment of clarity.
Over the past year I’ve taken time to heal. Huntress toured with Black Label Society on a 10-day run last December, but we haven’t done a full-scale tour since releasing our third album Static in September 2015. I am grateful to have the chance to return to the road on a prestigious tour with Trivium and Sabaton. Huntress has made some changes within our core. For the first time we have a team that includes a front of house sound tech / tour manager, a tour bus, bus driver and merch person. The current lineup is stronger than ever, with bassist Eric Harris (Gygax, Gypsyhawk, Skeletonwitch) returning to the pentad. He played bass on Spell Eater and toured with us in 2012. Blake Meahl remains an original member on guitar and co-mastermind behind Huntress. With his brother Tyler Meahl on drums and Eli Santana also on guitar, we share two members with Holy Grail.
Huntress began our fall trek with a string of headlining shows, hitting Flagstaff, Ariz. at the Orpheum Theatre first. September Mourning was direct support, fronted by a woman who’s known as September. I never saw her without full make-up, she was completely covered in white face paint, living her role. She describes the band as a “transmedia art project with a storyline.” We became fast friends with snarky New York rhetoric. Although our musical styles differ, the theatrical aspects of both bands created an interesting experience for our fans. After four additional headlining shows, we joined forces with Trivium and Sabaton in Columbus, Ohio at Newport Music Hall. Meeting everyone was cool, especially Matt Heafy the frontman of Trivium. Much respect for his vision and talent.
Being a support act can be challenging for slew of reasons, most of all because of the space we’re allotted on stage. With two drum sets back-lined, often there’s not much room to perform. I learned to climb over monitors in 3-inch heels years ago, avoiding cables that clutter the floor. Showbiz!
Seven more shows lead us to the pinnacle of the fall tour: Ozzfest Meets Knotfest. Storming the stage at 12:30 PM, we ripped through our 30 minute set beneath the blazing sun. The crowd was massive and we didn’t expect a full audience at our midday performance, especially with a temperature reaching nearly 100 degrees. Mayhem Fest in 2013 prepared me for this heat; it’s no joke how brutal it can be. The boys and I went full beastmode into the fire. It was the best live show Huntress has played outdoors. When you can feel the electric energy of an audience, it feeds you, perpetuating your power. It certainly paid off at the meet and greet; the line was an hour long wait. It left us with a slew of new fans, cell phone photographs and sunburn.
As I walked back to our tour bus, I saw Mike Muir, frontman of Suicidal Tendencies. Even though I’ve met him twice before, most notably when we both played Motörhead’s Motörboat last year, I still let out a squeal of excitement. I turn into a teenage fangirl. ST are my favorite band from my angsty high school days. The Huntress boys were stoked to see all the shows, they ran around San Manuel Amphitheatre as I vacuumed the bus. I like to come back down to Earth after shows, cleaning is my favorite. It returns my humility, reminding me I’m just human, not a rock star. The moment I believe the hype surrounding me, I’ll become an a--hole. So I play in the dirt.
Black Sabbath! History is about to be made onstage, boasting The End has come. I saw them perform once before in 2013, it was life-changing. This will be the final West Coast show Sabbath will ever perform. I don’t typically watch bands, unless it’s from the wings where I can catch a glimpse and vanish into the shadows again. Ozzfest was overwhelming; I don’t mingle with the riff raff and I get anxious, so I opted out. Laying in my bunk I heard a loud boom, setting off car alarms and shaking the bus. This went on for at least five minutes. Fireworks. And then Ozzy’s voice.
I fell asleep, dreaming of demons and rivers. It was perfect. The carnival was over and the caravans departed heading into the night. Knotfest would conquer the next day. And now the autumn journey shall continue with Trivium and Sabaton. So stayed tuned, Creatures!
We send our thanks to Jill Janus for this snapshot of life on the road. You can grab your copy of Huntress' latest album, 'Static,' at Amazon or digitally through iTunes. Get the band's tour schedule and stay up to date with all their activities by following the Huntress Facebook page. There's a handful of dates left on the current tour, so catch Huntress in action if you haven't had the chance yet!
See Jill Janus + More of the Top 50 Hard Rock + Metal Frontwomen of All Time