You've probably read anthologies in the past that have mixed horror and music but this one is a little different. Welcome To The Show includes 17 horror stories that are all set in a fictional San Francisco night club called The Shantyman. Edited by Matt Hayward and Doug Murano this book takes you from The Shantyman's disturbing origins right up to it's apocalyptic future. Demons, vampires, other dimensions and the end of the world, its all here under one roof.
One story I liked here was Parody by Jeff Strand. Showing that this anthology has it all this was a funny story about a Weird Al wannabe. Zany Chester was hoping to make it big by singing his own 80's song parodies and hopefully open mic night at The Shantyman will be his big break. Things don't go according to plan though but at the least everyone will remember Chester's performance. This is a simple fun story but what I really liked was the attention to detail in Chester's character. It's obvious that Chester is delusional but the fun part is trying to tell the difference between Chester's reality and the real world. Jeff Strand really show's he's a great writer with this one.
Another good one was Running Free by Brian Keene. This one is about a man who is dying of cancer who takes up running in hopes of dying of a heart attack instead of cancer because if the cancer kills him his family can't collect on his life insurance policy. The problem is he is starting to have visions of dark clouds hanging over people and try as he might he can't seem to bring on his demise. You have to give this story points for originality, there is a lot going on here and I found myself loving the main character even though he's a real bad person. Most of all I like how this story blends real life horror with fictional style horror.
My favorite story in the book was We Sang In Darkness by Mary SanGiovanni. This one is different from the others in the book. It's set in a dark future world where music is banned and aliens are part of society. This was beautifully written a lot of meaning in this one that is left to interpretation. What I liked most about it though was how music gets used as a form of communication between aliens and humans who can't understand the other's language. There is also a great jaw dropping shock ending here that fit the mood of the story perfectly.
The stories in Welcome To The Show were kind of hit and miss. There were plenty of gems but a few of them left me rolling my eyes. That being said I loved how this anthology creates it's own mythology with each story adding something original to it. The mood seems to change throughout the book as well with some stories being funny while others were dark, The Shantyman is a place where anything goes. The editor's had a nice concept in mind and the way the stories were connected it almost felt like a novel. Crystal Lake publishing puts out some great horror anthologies and this is no exception.