It’s a gloomy, cold March evening in an old but trendy neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On a tree-lined side street, hidden away among the houses, is a small club called Cattivo. Upon entering, one encounters a narrow staircase descending to the lower level…a dark, gritty bar with stage and high-top tables. Someone particularly frightening is also present this very night: Ari Lehman, the first Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th (1980).
Ari Lehman has been a part of the Friday the 13th film franchise from the very beginning. Before the hockey masks and countless sequels, there was the original movie. Ari Lehman portrayed the gruesome, decomposing boy Jason rising from the water at Camp Crystal Lake, after his delusional mother (Betsy Palmer) takes revenge upon a slew of teenage counselors whom she blames for his drowning decades earlier. After helping make Friday the 13th an iconic horror film of its era, Ari Lehman now leads a punk-inspired heavy metal band called First Jason that pays homage to the character and the film.
The crowd gathers as opening act Weird Paul Petroskey pays tribute with a song titled “I Don’t Want to Go to Camp Crystal Lake” The second band, Only Flesh, combines industrial, punk, and metal with visual performers who attach hooks into their own living flesh and are wired together in a macabre dance. If ever there could be worthy opening bands that deliver before the original Jason Voorhees appears…these are the ones!
The intense evening culminates with Ari Lehman and First Jason taking the stage. The band features guitarist Eddie Machete, bassist Johnny Danger, and Prince Fabian Arroyo on drums. Ari Lehman provides vocals and plays the keytar, which takes the shape of a massive machete. Ari Lehman considers First Jason to be a heavy metal musical extension of Friday the 13th. The band’s presentation is a must see experience for fans of the cult slasher flick.
Ari Lehman comes out rocking hard and doesn’t stop. The crowd is roused as he begins with “Jason is Watching!” and “Jason’s Bride.” Shouting from the stage to intro his next song, Lehman asks the audience if they are going to “Sink or Swim”? After introducing the band, Lehman gives a sinister salute to Pittsburgh as the home of the zombies…then adds, “Some say Jason is a zombie too!” More disturbingly evil songs include “Kill for Mother” and the exceptionally hard edged “Power from the Pain” which features the lyrics, “Did you leave me to drown?/On that cold, cold morning/Did you watch me go down?/Without any warning.” First Jason is currently touring in support of their new album, Lord of the Lake. Ari Lehman writes his own music and lyrics, which makes this experience as personal as it gets.
In addition to the horror-themed metal, Ari Lehman took time before and after his performance to interact with fans. His admirers range from young heavy metal and punk followers to older horror fans who retain nostalgic memories of seeing Friday the 13th on the big screen when it premiered 9th May 1980. Although this film helped kick start the massive wave of eighties slasher movies, the original entry also drew inspiration from the gritty seventies horror cycle. Filmed on location during the summer of 1979 at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco in Blairstown, New Jersey by director Sean S. Cunningham, it retains a unique vibe the latter sequels seem to lack. Tom Savini, a Pittsburgh native, was responsible for the grotesque make-up effects applied to 14-year old Ari Lehman that brought Jason to life in the initial film. Lehman shared the story of how seeing himself made up in the studio in the woods for the first time was a transformational experience.
Ari Lehman went on to study jazz piano at New York University after appearing in Friday the 13th. Musically, he has composed and recorded various soundtracks, including Vampira: The Movie (2006), and Alexia Anastasio’s Salome (2008). The multi-talented Lehman has also returned to acting in several horror film productions in recent years. Ari Lehman is also very proud of serving as a Red Cross volunteer at Ground Zero in New York City after 11th September 2001. Fans at his concerts should not miss sampling his homemade Jason-themed slasher sauces. Ari Lehman donates a portion of the proceeds from his hot sauces to animal rescue organizations that he is passionate about. Personally, Lehman has hand-rescued all of his pets from the streets.
As a video screen looped terrifying images from Friday the 13th, Ari Lehman brought Jason Voorhees back to life in the form of horror metal music, and the audience devoured it. An awesome, power-packed evening for hard metal rockers and horror addicts alike. If Ari Lehman arrives with his machete shaped keytar in your neck of the woods, I would definitely encourage you to go ahead and take the plunge!
Ari Lehman’s First Jason appeared along with Weird Paul Petroskey and Only Flesh on 28th March 2019, at Cattivo in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.