ISSUE 13   FALL 2002
page 3 of 16



Brad Sonder is in this picture!

MAMMAL live at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, July 4 2002




Mush Tour vs. Freedom From Tour:
Battle of the Avant Garde Network Stars

by Chris Sienko

Well 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.

ROUND ONE: Fog vs. Aaron Dilloway

Okay, 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 starts.
       "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 station identification.

ROUND 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 hip hop…"
        I have no idea what you're talking about, John...
        "...but 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 big Mr. Labtekwon @ Metroleagues."
I'm 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 afraid 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 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 effort."
        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.)

Thanks 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."
         My editor 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.
Doseone        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.)

We're 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 project.
        "W-w-well, I've 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."
        I'm tempted 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."
        Well, whatever, 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.
         "Yeah, 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."
         Meanwhile, 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 either group?
        "No, Chris, 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 sports!"
        Thanks Brad, 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.
         "That is, 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."
         I have 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?
        cLOUDDEAD are 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 in progress...


HAIR POLICE live in Chicago July 4 2002

Hair Police in Chicago, July 4, 2002

One of the songs where Robert was still holding his guitar.


See what I mean about Black Flag?


These 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

This 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 as usual.
        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.
Next 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!
Only 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!

Oops! The Tour
July 7-8, Fireside Bowl, Chicago

NIGHT 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...

        Like, 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.
And, 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 drift.
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.

         NIGHT TWO: 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.”
Next 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."
Next: 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 notes.
Next: 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!
Finally: 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.
After 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 a show.
          And 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.


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 Folk Music.

The Hideout, Chicago, June 28 2002

R.I.P. 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

I 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.


Oops! The Tour
by Tim Aher

Hardcore 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.


Oops! The Tour
via e-mail by John Ruhter (Omaha bureau)

The 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 e-mail.






Next: does Lotus know Fela?