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Invincible Czars

The Invincible Czars present a live score accompaniment to the silent film 'Phantom of the Opera' on Friday at The Varsity Center. Members of the band are, from left to right, Phil Davidson, Josh Robins, Sarah Jane Hargis and Aaryn Russell.

Downtown Carbondale's The Varsity Center has a variety of scintillating spooky cinema programming available for audiences this weekend. The historic local theater welcomes the critically acclaimed, internationally touring group Invincible Czars this Friday to kick things off.

The group, based out of Austin, Texas, provides their own, entirely original compositions to accompany a variety of classic silent films from the past. This year — the band's third performing in Southern Illinois — the group brings to the stage 1925's “The Phantom of the Opera.”

“We've always been a band who's about not just doing a 'normal' rock show,” says the band's creator and guitarist, Josh Robins. The band utilizes a variety of instruments ranging from guitar, bass, violin, and even glockenspiel, as well as sound effects as they provide original scores for silent films. This year's production for “Phantom of the Opera,” promises to have “more effects than ever before used in a Czar silent film score,” Robins says.

The band got their start in 2003, performing in different theaters and clubs, and have since branched out to include universities and other locations as both their reputation and fan base have grown. According to a news release from The Varsity Center, the band has been “praised across the country for making old silent classics frightening and entertaining for modern audiences.”

Having first played Southern Illinois in 2016 at Brews Brothers Taproom in Murphysboro, this will be the band's second time performing at The Varsity Center.

“It's a cool theater,” Robins said, adding the band was excited to return to the area with their newest score and latest lineup. The group, self-described as “on track to compete with Frank Zappa for most lineup changes over a career,” is currently rounded out with longtime violinist Phil Davidson, bassist Aaryn Russell, and Sarah Jane Hargis on flute. The group's website promises audiences that lineup changes ensure the act is “fresh and different every time you see them.”

Currently touring throughout the East Coast, Canada and the Midwest, the Czars have enjoyed sold-out shows from Brooklyn to Ontario, though Robins notes audiences vary from location.

“We've kind of learned where we play well and where we don't,” Robins explained over the phone from the band's stop in Pittsburgh. “In some places the market for this sort of thing is over-saturated. Some places get it and they love it. Some places haven't seen anything like it, and they don't quite get it.” Robins went on to describe the band's use of costumes in addition to original music and said that they encourage their audiences to dress up, too.

Indeed, anyone searching for more info on the event's page, or the band's website, invincibleczars.com, can see the call for audience members to “dress creepy.”

Tickets for the performance are still available at The Varsity Center or online at the varsitycenter.eventbrite.com. Prices are currently $10, but will increase to $15 the day of the show.

Doors open Friday at 7 p.m. at which time snacks, cocktails and sodas will once again be available for purchase with either cash or cards. The film rolls at 7:30.

For further info, contact The Varsity Center via Facebook or by calling 618-457-5353. To reach out to the band, or for booking info, contact invincibleczars@gmail.com.

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