live at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, July 4 2002
FROM SUMMER TOUR
READ Brad Sonder's ACCOUNT OF
THE SHOW, WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO GO HERE. HE SAYS IT HAS TO BE EDITED, BUT WE DON'T CARE.
AND NOW CHRIS SIENKO, WITH HIS OWN TAKE ON THE SHOW AS IT
COMPARED TO ANOTHER LABEL SHOWCASE HE HAD SEEN, THIS ONE
OF THE MUSH LABEL.
Tour vs. Freedom
Battle of the Avant Garde Network Stars
by Chris Sienko
hello ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, Battle of the Avant
Garde Network Stars takes you to Chicago, Illinois, home
of ironic facial hair and 95% humidity. We're here to witness
a throwdown between two heavyweight label rosters. On one
end of the city, we have Mush Records, performing live from
the Metro Theatre, in urine-soaked Wrigleyville (broadcast
pre-taped on June 13th of this year). While down in Wicker
Park, the Empty Bottle hosts the Freedom From… tour, featuring
one of their more energetic lineups, an augmented version
of their summer tour (repeat broadcast from the July 4th
show). Tonight, we're gonna let these two contenders duke
it out, and see who comes out on top.
ONE: Fog vs. Aaron Dilloway
first off, we've got a non-title bout, a short opening skirmish
between Wisconsin-based indie rock band Fog, and Mr. Aaron
Dilloway, better known to wide-eyed Chicago connoisseurs
as "The guy in Wolf Eyes whose instruments always catch
on fire." Well, we're already five minutes into this match,
and Fog is definitely reeling. Their uninspired Pavement-esque
indie-pop is not made any more palatable by the presence
of their lead singer, who is doubling on turntables. Jesse
Ventura, I think this match is going to be over before it
"Well, I have to agree
with you, Chris. Fog appears to be wearing their ass for
a hat. Granted, the crowd is swaying back and forth like
the bored youth in the "Hullaballooza" episode of The
Simpsons, but that doesn't translate into a victory."
I have to agree
with you there, though looking back at monitor 2, Aaron's
set isn't really causing much motion either. Although he's
executing the usual 20 minutes of the "man behind a rack
of knobs" formation, Aaron's really givin' it the gas tonight.
"No doubt, no doubt.
If tonight's performance is all about the destruction of
the "guy twirling knobs" approach to performance, Mr. Dilloway
is definitely giving us one last, longing look at just how
good this antiquated art form can be."
Well put, Governor,
and now the judges are tallying their scores, and it looks
like...yes, Aaron Dilloway is the clear cut winner. What
a match-up, this promises to be a good evening for you,
the audience at home. We'll be back with round #2 after
TWO: Labtekwon vs. Mammal
And we're back, on Battle of the Avant Garde Network Stars.
I'm joined by John Madden for this second exciting round
of play, pitting Baltimore-based rapper Labtekwon against
Detroit newcomer Mammal, and I think this is going to be
a good set.
"I have to agree. You
see, Labtekwon, he's the old rookie of the league. With
seven or eight CD-Rs under his belt, his Mush label debut,
which is basically an extended greatest hits album, is going
to position him for a strong push down the center, ready
to snatch the brass ring on this carousel known as underground
I have no idea
what you're talking about, John...
on the other hand, Gary Mlitter, who has to have the best
rock and roll pseudonym ever, is going to be a tough competitor.
He's young, he's hungry, and he really wants to establish
himself. He's come from a small scene, and a tour with this
level of Midwest coverage could really break him into the
with you there, and now, as they start their respective
rounds, it seems Labtekwon is just not moving the crowd.
I'm not sure why...he's got the boom and the bap; it's coming
quite clearly out of his DAT player. His voice is excellent,
and his off-kilter raps about Egypt and being reborn and
Nebuchudnezzar certainly fit well with a label like Mush,
who commit themselves to offbeat product.
"I'm going to
go out on a limb here and say that Labtekwon is reminding
this primarily waifish crowd a little too much of regular
hip hop. Keep in mind here that most of what we're going
to see tonight has very little resemblance to..."
I'm going to have to cut you off, John, because Mammal has
just sent his audience into a total frenzy. He's doing one
of those endless grooves of his...it might be off his "Fog
Walkers" LP, but I can't really tell, they all sound kinda
similar...anyway, about 20 people in the crowd have torn
their shirts off, and are now carrying both Gary and his
box of electronics around the club floor. They seem to be
chanting something...yes, they seem to be chanting, "Spring
Break, Spring Break, Nerds, Nerds, Nerds..." Well, I don't
know what to make of this.
"I think it's
a movie quote, Chris."
You might be
right, John, well I never, I don't think I've ever seen
so many bare-chested no wave fans in one place at one time
before. They really seem to be reverting to, well, mammals,
don't you think?
"This is unprecedented.
I've never seen so much actual emotion and enthusiasm from
a crowd of this nature. Chicago didn't give up this much
response when Bruce Dickinson rejoined Iron Maiden."
The judges are
giving their final tally, and, yes, it looks like Mammal
takes another round for team Freedom From…, though I have
to say, I really enjoyed that Labtekwon show. It made me
want to hear more. Good effort on the post-show freestyle
too. I think you'll agree, John, it's not easy to bust off
a freestyle about bananas, pussy, and the Orioles.
"It's like running
the five minute mile, Chris. Nobody thought it could be
done, but all it took was one guy somewhere with a vision
and some science. Mark my words, this is going to be the
new standard by which future comers will be judged. Good
And we'll be
back after a word from our sponsor, Burt Reynolds Cigarettes...
Thanks for joining us again tonight, it's now round three
of what promises to be a very long night of heated experimental
music competition. Now it looks like we've got the group
competition. For the Mush team, it's newcomer Radioinactive,
who have just put out a CD, against returning champs Nautical
Almanac. With me is Jaye P. Morgan, and Jaye, as much as
I like to give the underdogs a chance, I think this one
is going to be over before it starts.
"Chris, I was telling
you this last night while you were brushing my teeth, I've
been wanting to get in the middle of a little bit of 3-way
Nautical naughtiness for years, so all my money is on them.
C'mon, look at these (OOPS!) from Radioinactive. Sure, they've
got gorilla costumes on, and one is playing the flute through
a gorilla mask, but listen to that trash they're playing.
They sound like a limp-wristed cross between Archers of
Loaf and 311. Christ, I think I wanna (OOPS!)"
Ah, hahaha, that Jaye.
She's just the apple of our pants, d'uh, eye, around here.
Anyway, Nautical Almanac seem to have brought in a surprise
player, a bit of a ringer for their team, someone known
simply as "The Shadow Drifter." Does anybody know if this
is a new regular to their team? No, the consensus seems
to be that he's just joined for the next couple of competitions.
Well, his alto sax, snare drum, shakers and bells would
make him an ideal candidate for the classic Impulse! '68
team, but I have to say, he's providing a great, unique
contrast to Nautical's patented "rewired electronics" maneuver,
which has leveled many a competitor. The audience seems
to be really digging this.
"That Shadow Drifter
is one hot (OOPS!). I'd like to take that low-slung sax
of his and give it a good swift (OOPS!) (OOPS!) (OOPS!).
I'll give him a "macumba" he'll never forget."
Can we say that on
Blastitude online? Seems we've just flown in under the wire
there, though we're in less danger of having the plug pulled
than poor Radioinactive, who have now given the rapping
duties over to a "Rapping dinosaur" doll. My goodness, this
is getting downright pathetic.
"For Melle Mel, Kool
Moe Dee, KRS ONE, Chuck D, and many many others, I'd like
to take a corkscrew to his... (PLEASE STAND BY, WE ARE EXPERIENCING
TECHNICAL AND CREATIVE DIFFICULTIES) (Times Passes…)
And the judges
have given this round unanimously over to Nautical Almanac,
featuring the Shadow Drifter! And it looks like our star
player has decided to lay down a short solo set to celebrate.
He really knows how to work an audience, doesn't he, Jaye?
"I'd like to
work his…(PLEASE STAND BY......)...a couple of
peppermints in the back of my throat, in order to get a
good... (WE'LL BE BACK IN JUST A MOMENT, AFTER THIS IMPORTANT
REMINDER…DON'T FORGET TO WATCH "LARRY DOLMAN LIVE!" LATER
TONIGHT, FOLLOWING THIS PROGRAM.)
once again to Jaye P. Morgan, hrrrhm, what a wiseacre. Now
we come to round four of this highly charged night of label-to-label
competition, and it's the duos round. At the Metro, we've
got crowd favorites Doseone and Boom Bip, two very iconic
figures on the Mush stable, while over at the Bottle, Neon
Hunk have just donned their alien costumes and are getting
the kinks out of their electronic rigging. Dennis Miller,
I know you're a big fan of Doseone, why don't you give the
audience a bit of background, if you please.
"Listen, cha cha, this Dose
chap has it all going for him. I mean my God, the fake fur,
the fez, the fuzzy soulpatch...he looks like he was gang
raped by the Cockettes. Very "Look What The Cat Dragged
In," Mr. DeVille, and he's got just the right touch of Ike
Turner to bring these hip cats and kittens to full swoon,
Wicker Park style. He's got the witty banter, he's makin'
good eye contact, and that joke about how cheap therapy
is in Chicago vs. California is sure to win him some points...this
crowd's got so many neuroses, it makes the Crumb family
look like the original Ozzy, and I don't mean the chunky,
bloated carcass who used to sing "War Pigs" at a time when
you didn't look at his own pasty flesh and wonder about
the pot, and the kettle."
has just informed me that this broadcast is running long,
and Mr. Dolman is getting upset, so we won't be cutting
back to Dennis Miller any more ever again. Okay, we've got
Neon Hunk, who just about everybody attending the show has
probably seen before. They've got more coverage in Chicago
than Chicago-based bands, and are always up for a gig, and
that's got to count for something with this crowd. Once
again, it seems the crowd is being whipped into a frenzy
by Neon Hunk, much as their tour brethren Mammal had done
not even an hour earlier. I've seen these guys multiple
times, and this could be their best show yet. Their concise
little tunes are coming out in perfect formation, and the
classic "alien argument" routine between sets is really
playing perfectly to this spazz-happy crowd. People are
screaming along, frugging in the aisles...there's a lot
of love here.
Over at Metro, Dose and Boom Bip are getting a rather good
sound. The beats hittin' hard, and the sound patterns are
definitely swirling, but I'm having trouble understanding
ANYTHING Dose says. I guess if I had the lyrics in front
of me, or a copy of the CD, it might be different, but as
it stands, those processed vocals are really killing the
mood. I guess maybe it's just the 'avant garde' nature of
the whole thing, but this announcer thinks that a tour that
is based on words and wordplay should pay a little more
attention to making sure that the words are being amply
represented, particularly for us newcomers. Granted, it
looks like Neon Hunk are yelling something that may or may
not be English, or even Earthling, but that seems to be
the name of their game. As for Dose's game, I still really
don't know what it is. Maybe his contribution to cLOUDDEAD
will be more lucid.
The judges have
once again ruled in favor of the Freedom From… team. I think
the Mush promoters are going over to have a word with the
judges now. It looks like the subject of unfair judging
standards have come up. Well, folks, I don't know what to
tell you, we at Battle of the Avant Garde Network Stars
are happy to admit that our competitions are, on the authenticity
scale, about one step away from the ECW. We don't know exactly
who is going to win, but you can bet we generally have a
pretty good guess. So, ponder that, get up and get yourself
another cup of coffee, or if you're at work, another beer,
and join us after this commercial announcement.
(Tune into "Go Take A Nap!" with Jack Jackson, for all
the Hollywood dirt that's fit to scoop, tonight at 6 and
11, after the Dolman Report.)
back once again, for the final two rounds of tonight's skirmish,
and so far, it looks like Freedom From... is pulling an
English Patient here, sweeping the awards. It's going to
take some real miracles from Mush HQ to turn the tide, but
then again, they are saving their two flagship acts, Reaching
Quiet and cLOUDDEAD for last, so it looks like anything
could happen. Setting up now in the Empty Bottle is NY-based
Sightings, and I have to say, the mood have definitely changed.
So far this evening, each successive band has loosened the
audience up more and more. People are chatting with complete
strangers, there's a lot of laughter, a real festive evening
for this July 4th event. But I have to say, ever since Sightings
took the stage, the mood has become rather nervous. These
guys aren't just projecting confidence, they're radiating
pure contempt. I haven't seen a mood change like this since
that Lesbian Nation crack at Lilith Fair. Speaking of Fair,
we've got Jad Fair with us here tonight to help us out with
this crucial match. As Reaching Quiet tunes up their instruments,
I'd like you to give us some thoughts on this much-anticipated
heard a few of their songs, I heard them on this tape a
friend of mine gave me, and I, uh, I was really amazed at
the sorts of things they were singing, or rapping, or whatever,
rapping about. I especially liked, the, liked the one about
the horror of winters in the Midwest, because my brother
David and I, we used to live in Michigan, and we had the
Stooges and the MC5 play at our school dances..."
Yeah, so I've
heard. Well, I've also heard an advance copy of the Reaching
Quiet album, and I really think the slightly Nurse With
Wound air of the CD might not translate well to the live
arena, seeing as how much of it is based on studio manipulation,
and how they're once again turning to the live band maneuver
that sunk Radioinactive. We'll just have to see. Well, Sightings
has just started their set, and let me say, it's quite a
din! The rhythm section is forming a perimeter line around
the songs, giving us a very strong fenced-in effect. The
songs are definitely anchored. And just listen to that guitar,
Jad! That's gotta sound somewhat familiar. That's quite
a skree he's getting out of those six strings.
"Mark is a really
wonderful guitar player. His sound is a lot more jagged
than my brother David and my styles, but I like it a lot."
to say that there's a bit of Gang of Four in there amidst
the largely improvisational riffing, but that may just be
me trying to find a reference point.
"I don't hear
the Gang Of Four at all."
and now, Reaching Quiet have started up, and once again,
this live band thing is really sinking them. Those guitars,
they're just not going anywhere. Fortunately, singer and
rapper Why? is wisely doing at least half of the songs without
the use of bullhorns of effects pedals on his voice, so
we're getting a glimpse of the lyrical matter, and I think
the judges are pleasantly surprised. While his cadence and
style of rap almost brings to mind John Linnell of They
Might Be Giants, he's really recreating that feeling of
hearing well-written rap lyrics for the first time. Those
long unbroken strings of words that move past almost too
fast to digest, but every now and again, a great one-liner
makes contact with your ear, and someone in the crowd gives
a little chuckle. Very nice. The laptop manipulations by
Odd Nosdam are a good touch, and the low-end on the third
song just dislodged a bit of fried fish from three Lents
ago, but it's too little too late. The rest of the band
is not bringing much to the otherwise unique sound the duo
gets on record.
I think these guys were listening to "Westing By Musket
and Sextant" too many times. They should try to sound like
themselves, because that's all we ever did, and that's why
we sounded the way we did."
Sightings seems to have sent the crowd into a low-key but
intense fit. People in the front row are almost clambering
up to touch Mark Morgan's guitar as he's playing it, like
a guru with a really immense hem on his garment, but the
band is still projecting a vicious glow that keeps things
in check. The judges are being rocked, but they're keeping
their eyes on the scorecards. One of these things is not
like the other, eh, Jad?
"What? Oh, sorry,
I was just checking out that girl in the..."
And with an already
lopsided score, it looks like the judges are going to give
another shoe-in to Sightings, putting Freedom From in a
good position for a shutout. Um, our sponsor has just reminded
me that people would really rather be reading some substantive
record reviews, so we're going to go straight into the final
set, cLOUDDEAD versus Hair Police. With me as always is
Mr. Brad Sonder, who is giving me a little bit of a funny
look over there. Brad, do you have something to say about
I don't. I'd just like to say that I've been brought here
totally against my will, and that I'd rather be at the Admiral
Theatre right now than "officiating" some non-existent sports-type
event. And what is all this, Sienko? I thought you hated
and as both bands set up for the final showdown, I'm thinking
this finale could go either way. I've seen Hair Police in
other matches, and they were quite gripping, but I've also
heard that their sets can be inconsistent. Their entropic
nature guarantees that they'll burn hot and fast, but if
the fire doesn't hit the tinder, it's going to be a quick
flash, and then nothing.
without question, the dumbest analogy ever. I hope they
never let you write for Blastitude ever again. C'mon, the
Rettman brothers are already at the Admiral, let me go!
I'm gonna miss Dollar Dances!"
On the other
hand, I rather enjoy at least parts of the cLOUDDEAD album.
Granted, they too are a little too touchy-feely with the
post-rock crowd, but with a few well-placed and well-performed
versions of some favorites like "JimmyBreeze" and "I Promise
Never To Get Paint On My Glasses Again," this could be a
fair fight, especially if Hair Police shit themselves prematurely.
It's too close to call.
"Is there a cooler
on that side of the desk? At least pass me a beer."
to say, cLOUDDEAD do look rather impressive up there, Dose
and Why? huddled together behind a bank of keyboards and
effects boxes. Nosdam is being joined by another fellow
who's supplying the drum machine beats in real time. He's
really punching the sound up, don't you think?
burning through their set like old pros, like they've done
these six or seven songs hundreds of times now, which may
be true. The lighting is good, everybody's in sync, and
this is definitely what the fans would hope it would be.
They've got the audience singing along with "Physics of
a Bicycle," and that's a good sign. The lack of audience
interaction so far has not been lost on the judges...this
is bound to win them a few points back.
But what's this?
It looks like the Hair Police have started, and I have to
say, I've never experienced anything like this before! It's
very literally turning into a riot over there at the Empty
Bottle! The band is in perfect form, and even without having
played their signature track, "Shirts Vs. Skins," they've
got the crowd in a frenzy. Bassist/vocalist/center Mike
Connolly is really taking some heavy damage out there...and
almost all of it is coming from the audience! He's taking
hits like Henry Rollins, either during his Black Flag days
or in any of the movies he's ever been in. This is something
else. They're just pummeling him on the club floor! I just
saw some young man put his head in the bass drum, and I
think that's Twig Harper of Nautical Almanac on stage! He's
at the bottom of a large pile of people, and it looks like
he's got Mike's bass in hand! He looks fearful of being
crushed, but he's still playing the bass! This has gotta
be a first for Chicago. I think half of the audience is
on stage now, and even with all the commotion, the band
is still sticking to their set list! This is the best thing
that's ever aired on Battle of the Avant Garde Network Stars...we're
definitely go for another season! I think if the judges
aren't seriously injured before this set is over, it's a
shoe-in that they're going to give the final round to the
Hair Police, and why not, why not indeed? Brad, you've been
around a bit longer than I, have you ever seen anything
like this before? Brad? Well, it looks like Brad made it
away in all the commotion, and as cLOUDDEAD are still leading
their crowd in a half-mast rendition of "Dead Dog," it's
only left for me to put down the mic and say goodnight.
I need a beer. Thank you for watching, and we'll see you
next week, Larry Dolman is up next...we join him already
POLICE live in Chicago July 4 2002
of the songs where Robert was still holding his guitar.
what I mean about Black Flag?
are video stills from an upcoming Hair Police DVD/VHS.
Camera by C. Spencer Yeh. Check out the Hair
Police website for updates.
by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman
Demolition Doll Rods, Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat, 900
Dicks, Magas, Ghost Arcade @ Fireside Bowl, June 2002
show was stacked. I missed Ghost Arcade, but they got a
lot of shout-outs from the later acts so they were probably
good. Magas was the first act I saw and he ruled as usual.
He took a long time to set up, and then hit the stage and
said “Okay I’m ready” and peeled off his Temple of Bon Matin
T-shirt to squeals from the ladies (and gentlemen, sure).
He then got a basic kick-and-snare type house beat going,
and going, and going, and went into a stage rap, something
like, “Alright, let’s get right down to business. I wanna
see you motherfuckers dancing right now, right from the
start. None of this shit where you wait until the 20th
song and then go ‘uuuhhh’ [imitating really weak dance move]
and then the show is over. Right now, motherfuckers! Until
I see some change out here [indicating crowd] there isn’t
gonna be any change up here [indicating stage]. I’m serious!
I’M FUCKING SERIOUS!! COME ON, MOTHERFUCKERS!!!” That sort
of thing. It worked a little bit, but come on, this is Chicago,
and Chicago doesn’t dance. I’m seriously so sick of people
chiding Chicago audiences about not dancing, but Magas actually
makes danceable music and dances to it himself and was funny
about it, so it was acceptable. Usually it’s some mean-ass
jaded-ass art person wearing an alienating costume and playing
really sexless jerk-rhythmed noise that’s chiding us for
not dancing, and that’s just bullshit. So anyway Magas rocked
Next was Quintron
and Miss Pussycat, the headliners for the evening. The Demolition
Doll Rods were ALSO on the bill (see what I mean about the
show being STACKED, wink wink, nudge nudge) but they were
late showing up so they unenviably had to go on after the
New Orleans party posse. The party posse set up all of their
equipment and their big puppet-show set, and after checking
all the mics, Quintron said, “Okay we’re ready, but 900
Dicks is gonna play first.” This sent quite a wave of anticipation
over the audience. Some band names are just like magic words;
they cause a sensation as soon as they are uttered. 900
Dicks is just such a band name. 900 Dicks turned out to
be the kid from the late XBRXBX, and 900 Dicks turned out
to be his 'southern bounce' hip-hop project. I know what
you’re thinking – wow, a white hipster hip-hop side project?
HOW ORIGINAL…but 900 Dicks ruled. They did three songs…
something about “Ha ha we’re the PO-lice/Put your muthafuckin'
hands up,” and then the immortal “Fuck Dry Humping” (“let’s
go straight to the dick/get dry humping out of the mix”)
and the immortal “We Like To Fuck” (featuring an Erase Errata
sample that I thought was some old soul 45 sample like DJ
Yella would've done). Quintron put on a disguise and became
DJ Kobra for the affair. 900 Dicks ruled because it was
all about sex and the kid from XBRXBX likes to have a party.
Next was Miss Pussycat’s
new puppet show, which was one of the greatest things I’ve
ever seen. I really think that her puppetry is some of the
highest art going today. It's playful and inspiring, and
despite any slightly twisted acid implications, which are
there, kids would love it and octogenarians would too. It
would even make a Chicago no wave scenester smile and laugh
– I saw it happen right in front of me! I can't remember
what it was called -- "The Mystery of Horse Gulch"?
Something like that... and it had magical floating horses
who played basketball, and the villain was a giant skeleton,
and it ended with a rock'n'roll showdown a la Johnny vs.
The Devil in "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
or Ralph Macchio vs. Steve Vai in Walter Hill's Crossroads.
was the Quintron set, which was pretty much just straight
party music. The drum machine kicked, Quintron riffed, Miss
Pussycat shook her maracas and did the party-brat yells,
and Quintron sang the party anthems, a lot of which had
"motherfucker" in the lyrics, which is probably
the New Orleans Bounce influence comin' through. The last
song was a long jam on which Quintron proved himself the
Jimi Hendrix of the Drum Buddy, and even lit a nice big
fire right on stage. Music (and show) for all scenes. Step
right up, one and all!
certain bands can play last and get away with it. It's a
tough spot. After Quintron & Pussycat burned down the
house, the place kind of cleared for the Doll Rods. This
was in marked contrast to the last time I'd seen them, opening
for the Cramps in Omaha, where there had been a real packed
excitement in the air. This time, I too cleared out and
sat in the bar for the first part of their set. One thing
about the crowd thinning out, when I did decide to go in
and check out the set, I could walk right up to the stage
and watch Margaret shake her money-maker(s). At the Omaha
set they were radiant, but this was two or three years later,
playing clean-up at the Fireside Bowl. They seemed a little
more human, and yes, a little bit older, than they did then,
although Margaret was still pretty incredible and her guitar
playing, especially on the extended noise version of "Spoonful,"
was almost as hot. Christine on drums also got props for
using the simplest possible knot to tie it all together.
And afterwards, as all the bands were tearing down, I noticed
a real summit meeting happening onstage between Margaret
Doll Rod, Miss Pussycat, and Cynthia Plaster Caster!
7-8, Fireside Bowl, Chicago
ONE: Who'd have thought that the summer of 2002 would see
the first traveling rolling thunder revue of weird rock
music, a veritable summit meeting between Load, Skin-Graft,
and Troubleman Unlimited? Well, happen it did, this hot
summer. The tour kicked off with a whole weekend of festivities
went down in centrally located Chicago, Illinois.... and
Blastitude was there! For two of the three nights!
The first band
to hit the stage for the whole shebang was, kind of awkwardly,
one nobody had heard of. They were called Pg.99 and they
were a screamy hardcore band from Virginia who apparently
needed a show in Chicago that night and got lucky. They
had three guitarists, two vocalists, and a bassist and drummer.
Their first song was explosive and refreshing, but it got
tiresome pretty quick. It was interesting to compare them
to other bands on the tour like Locust, who ostensibly do
the same genre of music. What made Pg.99 not quite the same?
Well, for starters, they just aren't retarded enough...
for example, the Grand Ulena, who were next, and quickly
displayed all the chops and extremity and volume that Pg.99
did, but put it in the service of retarded compositions
that stumbled down maddeningly self-negating quirk-prog
paths. This is a St. Louis band that features Darin Gray
of the Dazzling Killmen, known to some as “the best living
bass player.” The guitarist I don’t know, and the drummer
I’d never heard of either, but he’s this 22 year old kid
who is pretty incredible, the sound of his own jazz training
being run through a stuttering wood chipper. They had some
schtick going that I couldn’t quite figure out, wherein
the three musicians would sort of chat and discuss things
while they were playing their high-precision stumbling music,
as if they were doing some kind of weird ‘improv exercise’.
Late in the set, the drummer did this thing where he'd stop
playing and shield his eyes so he couldn’t see the other
two members and wait for some kind of trigger to play again.
I couldn’t really figure it out.
Anyway, the Grand
Ulena were impressive, but it really made me question: how
much more do I really need to be ‘impressed’? Their music
was doing amazing things up in my cerebrum, but it never
once made it down south to the guts and the groin (not to
mention – sniff – the heart). What’s more, both Bobby
Chewb and Geoff Guy -- who don't know each other -- described
them as sounding like Primus.
speaking of music that makes it down south, holy shit: Erase
Errata was next. I absolutely loved their set. I had heard
bits and pieces of their records here and there, but being
pretty darn jaded, wasn’t believing the hype. And then,
a mere 30 seconds into their show, all that doubting was
gone. I loved Erase Errata live. The singer Jenny Hoysten
is outstanding. She is one of my favorite rock’n’roll singers
that I have ever seen, and I am not joking in the slightest.
She wore hot 70s shades and pranced and boogied around the
stage, twirling the mic, while delivering a dense and cryptic
stream of lyrics. The music grooved its ass off. Each instrumentalist
was essential to the whole. No wonder Sonic Youth asked
Erase Errata to open some shows. Fucking Radiohead and Britney
Spears should ask them to open shows -- no, actually, they
should all ask them to headline shows. You get the
headliners were Lightning Bolt. Last year – last year to
the day, in fact (July 7th) – Lightning Bolt
threw down the most explosive set I have ever seen, right
there on the same beyond-soiled carpet. At that point, to
whomever would listen, I declared them the best live band
in the world. Well, that’s the kind of statement that just
begs to not be lived up to, and despite everyone else I
talked to thinking they were fantastic this year, I somehow
found myself a little let down. I think it was because the
shock of the new was missing, the atmosphere a little less
electric. For example, they didn't even tear into their
set as soon as Erase Errata was done. They were basically
all set up, but it was at least five or ten minutes of waiting
before they got started. But hey, even a slightly weak Lightning
Bolt set beats the entire career of most bands. And the
new stuff was very promising, the Thin Lizzy influence more
tangible than ever.
I was feeling really burned out but I went the next night
anyway because this thing wasn't just a weird-rock show,
it was a goddamn weird-rock summit. Plus, I just can’t stop
going to Wolf Eyes shows even when I try. These days, Wolf
Eyes are just freaking out live. Their albums are actually
quite sparse, desolate affairs, but live, they just start
up a beat and then immediately freak out and destroy. They
do it for 4 or 5 minutes, and then they just stop and then
the beat stops too. I'm not hearing the terrifying control
they showed on Dread, not to mention on Wolf Eyes
w/Spykes. Still mightily powerful, and the kids there
to see The Locust seemed pretty much frozen in their tracks,
and the jam where Olson plays sax and Dilloway plays that
amazing swinehorn is a wonder to behold, and it was cool
to overhear conversations between young fashion plates like
Q: “What’s the guy on the left playing?” A: “I have no idea.”
was the Rah Brahs, another band I’d heard some good stuff
about. They were a bit anomalous on the whole OOPS shebang,
having a kind of slick synth-driven sound, more like Animotion
than DNA. Judging from message boards and whatnot, a lot
of people at the show didn't like 'em. I wasn't very involved
by their industrial synth-pop myself, although remembering
their set now does give me a chuckle. My favorite part was
when, right as their set started, the drummer said to the
bass player, taking care to have his vocal mic pick it up,
"Dude, why don't you start out with that ambient shit
and we'll work into it."
the Flying Luttenbachers. Of all the bands both nights,
I’ve seen the Lutts the most, even more than Wolf Eyes.
They were playing their asses off, as usual, but the sound
was really kinda fucked up. All I could hear were drums
– even both earth bass and air bass combined were quite
overshadowed by the drums. Nonetheless, the Locust kids
seemed pretty entranced upon being presented with that many
Arab on Radar. Loyal readers of Blastitude may recall my
not-so-impressed take on these guys after seeing them a
year ago. Well, I’d have to say that despite my skepticism,
with this second viewing their 'thing' started to click
for me. I could appreciate what they were doing last time
– the drummer’s girly “1 2 3 4” and super-slammin’ death-groove,
the guitarist on the left’s mind-blowing flabby guitar lines,
and the guitarist on the right’s more clean-toned rhythmic
push -- but this time it was just more calibrated, more,
how you say....shit-hot? And, this time I 'got' Mr. Pottymouth.
Maybe it’s because I read some of his prose in the interim.
What good is an avant-tard persona unless your conceptual
continuity is unassailable? With Mr. Pottymouth it all makes
sense: he’s a little boy whose mother sends him to his room
for being potty-mouthed, and he gets so mad that he contorts
himself and his voice breaks into a high scary whine as
he imagines retaliation by thinking of even more disgusting
things to say. At school, when he gets sat in the corner
for a 'time out,' he makes faces at the wall and imagines
himself rubbing shit all over it. Now I get it!
The Locust. I was gonna leave before these guys came on
because I saw ‘em a couple years ago in Nebraska and it
was a good show and it was so hot at the Fireside, and I
had to get back to doing things that 32 year-olds do, like
watering the lawn, and putting away the croquet set, but
unfortunately I noticed the Brians of Lightning Bolt were
setting up their gear at their trusty spot back by the videogames.
A true surprise set, this time, so
I decided I had to stay. Unfortunately, The Locust made
staying difficult. Like me, they seemed like they had to
be there instead of wanted to be there. When I saw them
two years ago In Nebraska, they jumped and staggered around
and fell in and out of the crowd, and they didn't have any
fucking costumes, just their good old SoCal dude/Screamo/Pat
Benatar chic, but this was a totally different band. For
the entire set, they all stood in one place, wearing oh
so de rigeur costumes, spending an eternal two or three
minutes between each 45-second song (tuning, I guess). The
songs were played flawlessly and the sound was huge, but
there was so little energy coming from the stage it didn’t
matter. A bore, and about 20 minutes too long.
this, Lightning Bolt nailed the immediate surprise attack,
and it really seemed appropriate in an "okay, just
get the fuck off the stage and take a listen to how it's
DONE" kind of way. Maybe it was because of this obvious
moral to the story, but LB struck me as being noticeably
huger than the night before. On that one "1,2,3,4...5,6,7,8"
song, when Chippendale got done with that intro/chant/drumsolo
and Gibson entered with that mammoth riff, it created a
huge thick feeling in the air, like in a Vin Diesel movie
when he shifts a car into high gear and the film-stock is
sped up and a huge roar fills the soundtrack. You know,
during a song people in the audience would actually scream
with joy just for the way the bass sound changed. Now that's
that was the end of OOPS! Chicago. Kind of exhausting, huh?
So exhausting that I don't even really think I can write
a conclusion about it right now. I mean, I've already come
to several conclusions about the whole OOPS! scene, and
you can glean most of 'em from asides in other articles
in this very issue. Kinda like a running theme, really.
COUPLE SHORT TAKES.....
For some reason I've mainly been going to no wave screamo
shows. I have no idea why. The aging psychedelic street
hippie inside me keeps getting voted down, but I kinda like
that guy. Luckily, he did make it to at least two great
shows this summer: Michael Hurley at the Hideout
(wise persona, good guitar-player, definitely soul music)
and Huun-Huur Tu (beautiful, the best, wish I I could
write more, but, oops!, I used up all my damn ink on no
wave prog hardcore) at Welles Park as part of a weekend
music festival put on by the venerable Old Town School of
The Hideout, Chicago, June 28 2002
John Entwistle. When the rock legend passed away this summer,
the internet, as usual, allowed every single person who
had ever listened to his music to publicly express his/her
own personal sadness as if they were his favorite sibling
or something. I've always loved The Who, but considering
that the last good Who record came out about 25 years ago,
I wasn't all that broken up about it. I would've been if
I'd been friends or family with the guy, but I was just
a guy who occasionally listened to his records. Now, really,
how much grief can I claim?
I honestly can claim
more grief over another bass-player loss that happened at
the same time, on a much lower rung of the fame ladder.
Chicago's Cheer-Accident just lost their bass player of
8 or 9 years, Dylan Posa. Far less tragically, I'm pleased
to report, but a 'drag' nonetheless, Posa is moving to New
Orleans. On June 28th, the very night after Entwistle's
passing, when my e-mail box was still clogged with condolences,
Cheer-Accident played their last show with Dylan. It was
cool because they basically did their typical set, the basic
wondrous 'continuous prog opus' style they've mastered,
but with just a few well-played Cheer-Accident moments:
one moment in the middle when Dylan did a medley of his
favorite comedy routines (complete with title-cards held
by a plant in the audience), and another moment toward the
end, when Azita Youseff paid Dylan back two dollars he'd
lent her a few years earlier, and then, the very end, when
Cheer ended with a couple of their calmest ballads, leaving
a surprisingly wistful atmosphere in the club. Best of luck,
Dylan, and Cheer-Accident, who have already been a band
for 17 years and will still be great with or without a replacement.
@ the All-State
Arena parking lot, Rosemont, Illinois
finally got to see Andrew WK live, after missing two recent
Chi shows by him. In order to do it, I had to drive all
the way out by the O'Hare airport, where a station called
94.7 THE ZONE was putting on an outdoor all-day festival
in the parking lot of the Allstate Arena. THE ZONE is one
of those kinds of stations whose ID's feature a few seconds
of nu-metal and then that one guy who does voice-overs for
all edgy rock stations comes on and whispers "THE ZONE ROCKS"
or someshit and then it goes right back into the nu-metal.
In other words, right where WK should be -- those nu-metal
kids need to drop the thug act and learn to PARTY again
like they could back when nu-metal was just "new metal"
and it was by Van Fucking Halen. Anyway, Matt Focht and
I drove out there after intentionally missing the first
9 modern-rock bands. Clinic was actually on the bill, and
Focht kinda wanted to see them even though I'd warned him
that they were rather underwhelming live. After somehow
getting lost and driving past the Allstate Arena not once,
but twice, we finally got there in time for 3 or 4 Clinic
songs. (Props to the door-guy for apathetically waving us
in without making us pay $13, especially considering that
they had to be disappointed with the turnout -- there were
at most 500 people there, filling only about one-tenth of
the parking lot. No props to the beer tent for closing down
with two hours left in the show -- we actually wanted
to pay another $10 for a round...) And yeah, did I say Clinic
was "underwhelming" live? How about "the most boring show
I've ever seen from a good band?" The singer stands
there and sings a few lines, and then during the instrumental
break, he sort of half-turns his back to the audience, unscrews
the lid off his bottle of water, takes a sip, stays half-turned,
turns back to the audience to sing the next lines... man.
I still like their music with its blown-out keyboards that
bring loopy Beach Boys hooks lurching into fuzzed-out VU
haikus, but jeez, most laptop performances are more fun
to look at than this band. (I know they wear costumes. Somehow
that makes them even more boring to look at.) Next was a
big rap posse called Nappy Roots, who I'd never heard of
before, but apparently they're from small-town Kentucky
and were perhaps signed to capitalize on the whole Outkast
dirty south thing. Well, their set was pretty good and pretty
dirty. They kind of won me over. I like that exuberant 'country'
style. It was funny how for their last song they were like,
"alright, we're gonna rock this shit," and they brought
out some modern-rock pretty-boys to play supposedly 'heavy'
live music. Anthrax and PE it wasn't, but hey, the rappers
were good. After Nappy Roots came an exorbitantly long set-change,
with Andrew W.K.'s heavily bearded roadie putting on quite
a show for the crowd, but not near enough of a show to make
up for the wait. It got worse when a Zone DJ came out and
said that "the city of Rosemont does have an 11PM curfew...we're
going to try to get Andrew out here as soon as possible..."
Confused murmurs and some boos came from the crowd... after
all, it was 10:45. No matter, though, because when W.K.
and his amazing epic punk band finally took the stage, he
basically told the crowd that they were gonna have a blast
anyway, and that to make up for having to cut things short,
"after the show, we're gonna hang out in that parking
lot for hours and hours." He played about 6 songs,
which for me is really a perfect amount, like getting a
large milkshake instead of an extra large. The last song
was "Party Hard" and he had 40 people onstage,
from backstage and from the audience, people jumping onstage
while W.K. sang "We will never listen to your rules!
NO!!!!" I would've made it up there if the song
had been a couple minutes longer. After the last drum-roll
and guitar hit, true to his promise, W.K. stepped down into
the parking lot immediately afterwards and like 100 people
just started following him around. He sorta walked away
from the stage 20 or 30 yards, then stopped and said, "Alright,
I have to go for a minute, but I'll be right back,
I swear on my mom's name." He then walked past the
stage to the other side of the parking lot, and all 100
people followed him. He stopped again, and was talking to
the people around him, making no real sign of walking again.
Focht and I had to get back into town, so we ditched this
rather odd ceremony, with great memories of the party that
had just preceded it.
as a generic whole has some serious and widely recognized
problems right now: most superficially the scene's uniformity
of dress; more troublingly its endemic self-referentiality
(preaching its politics, naive at best and lunkheaded at
worst, to people who already take them as gospel); and probably
worst the formal stylistic conservatism that makes so much
of it sound so very much alike. Power violence as an idea
and The Locust as its proponents seem likely candidates
to deliver the form from total stagnation (or at least take
over in this for Charles Bronson), but for all their costumes,
synths, and spastic dance, they managed to assemble as their
audience this past July 8th a group of kids that, for the
most part, embodied everything I hate about scenes in general
and present-day hardcore's in particular. What with all
the white-kid dyed-green dreadlocks, store-bought anarchy
memorabilia, retarded piercings, and bored/confused underaged
girlfriends, I may as well have spent ten times as much
and gone to the corporate-sponsored Warped Tour. But then,
of course, I would have missed Wolf Eyes (of whose set I
regrettably saw only two songs), the rather forgettable
Rah Brahs (I think they were from San Francisco, if that
serves to explain or excuse the stupid pirate-sword wielding
drummer), the Flying Luttenbachers (in what was probably
the best and most coherent performance I've seen of theirs),
and finally the inimitable Lightning Bolt, who, owing to
four gigs within driving distance, two of them announced,
and a feature by Liz Armstrong, were for all intents and
purposes the stars of last weekend. I realize, looking back
at what I've already written, that it's stupid to complain
about such a great show at the Fireside, which is almost
always a fun venue even when stuffy and uncomfortable and
crowded with idiots. Furthermore, in basing my crowd generalization
on the "Bad Apples," I'm neglecting some truly worthy
specimens. For example, as my friend and I crossed Fullerton
on the way there, some fairly legit looking gutterpunks
hit us up for money to get into the show; one even offered
to let his apparent girlfriend beat him up if we'd give
him a dollar, and my friend (a sporting Ph.D. who doesn't
eat meat for ethical reasons) took him up on it. That kind
of shit, plus the fact that the same kid was, an hour later,
leaning against the stage and pumping his fist to Weasel
& Co.'s "brutal prog" with a huge, shameless grin, reminds
me why I still go to see big draws at the Fireside. Stupid
things I heard at the show:
1. "I appreciate what
[Wolf Eyes] were trying to do, but they really don't know
what they're doing"
2. "Yeah, later we're
going to smoke out and watch the Mr. Show DVD."
3. "I want to get my
[ear?]-lobes down to 4 [piercing gauge?]" I'm pretty sure
this kid wasn't talking about his brain.
e-mail by John Ruhter (Omaha
show was ok. I don't want to sound trite due to my age but
loud, smokey HC shows -- with all the hip kids saying they
aren't consumers though they are the biggest consumers of
all -- don't really do it for me anymore. The Flying Luttenbachers
were ok. They are technically good but never seem to really
hit the mark. Erase Errata was good. Didn't quite meet my
expectations but they were good. Lightning Bolt was the
highlight for me. Arab on Radar was what I expected. They,
despite my prior appreciation, really aren't my thing. The
Locust really disappointed me. Musically, they were tighter
then ever. For the first couple of minutes of their set,
Ross from Wasteoid and Jazzman were on the stage dancing
next to Justin, the bass player. In between one of the songs,
Justin told them that they had to get off the stage b/c
they kept bumping his equipment. Five years ago, he would
have encouraged them to knock over his bass amp -- if he
hadn't already done it. The whole thing just seems to have
outgrown itself. I mean, I'm happy that a lot of people
are into them now and a lot of people go to the shows. To
me, the thing that always appealed to me about HC was going
to sweaty shows in someone's basement and seeing these great
bands with 15 or 20 other people and then buying their record
after they were done. Now, HC bands have labels for the
tour they are on and hang out "backstage" while the other
bands are playing and charge kids $8 to get in. Listen to
me whine. I know I sound like the common, old, grumpy punk
rocker who complains that things aren't the same as in "my
day." But it's true. Oh well. Those are my thoughts on the
show. As far as shows go, I'm getting all together sick
of them -- especially the ones in Omaha. That's another
Next: does Lotus know Fela?