BULB RECORDS 10TH ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL
MAY 2-3, 2003
THE MAGIC STICK, DETROIT
PERFORMANCES BY DANSE ASSHOLE, MC TRACHEOTOMY, DEMOLITION
DOLLRODS, QUINTRON, COUCH, NAUTICAL ALMANAC, MIND FLAYER,
WOLF EYES, 25 SUAVES, AND ANDREW W.K. (Plus other sundry adventures
to be documented here.)
by C. M. Bligablum for your bewildered pleasure.
All names changed into occasionally realistic pseudonyms,
because what we do behind closed doors... Photos by Sir
Reggie Queequeg (Quintron, Demolition Dollrods, the bloody
lip of "Marlon Magas") and Chris
Pottinger (Nautical Almanac x 2, Mindflayer, Wolf Eyes).
Players: C. M. Bligablum, Mel Collins, Rudiger Smelts,
Estragon Arafat, Gundam Bondai, Link Hildreth, Tartan Bowsing,
Mindolene Warszawa, Singha Traynor, Sandro Beaulataine, Belle
Plaine Datsun, Chanti Oaks, Gabardine Rufella, Locane Billingsley,
Estragon at the Reckless Records on Milwaukee, before driving
down to the station to hook up with the rest of our travelling
party. Ess asks me about a Foghat and an Eddie & The Hotrods
album he found
...are they any good? I didn't know, so we moved along. Hamana
was sick, so we had to stop by the Jewel first to get her
some supplies, and pick up some sustenance for our own trip.
I bought some donuts and some beef jerky, and in both cases,
this was not the last time I bought these things. The highlight
of the Jewel for me, without question, was a woman checking
out behind us. In her shopping cart, she had 1) a six pack
of Diet Pepsi; 2) a 12-pack of some sort of Nutra-Sweeted
up lemon carbonated water health drink; 3) a 12-pack of Milwaukee's
Best Light. KLA$$Y!
by Estragon and Hamana's to give her some get better supplies.
I look around at Ess's extensive Foucault collection, trying
to avoid Hamana's room (knowing how easily I pick up germs,
'specially when I'm low on sleep as I've been this week),
and avoid cat hair (IMPOSSIBLE). I see Ess's stacks of things
to sell in many formats...
stacks of LPs, CDs, tapes, videotapes, and comic books.
station: the WHPK office is packed full of people, a solid
1/2 of which I've never seen before, and 1/4 of people that
I only know by name/face and that's it. Gonna be a good weekend
to meet new folks! Everybody hemming and hawing, trying to
get as few people as possible in their car. Mel is our driver,
and his car is VERY small, so we make sure we've only got
four people in it. Our caravan consists of Mel Collins (lead
driving, lead CD selection), me (rhythm driving and map-reading,
lead and rhythm CD selection), Estragon (rhythm studying,
rhythm CD selection), and Chanti (lead cell-phone recon [as
in "are you guys near the exit yet? What? You got a speeding
was largely without problem or incident. I was put in charge
of driving for a while when Mel started getting tired (he
hadn't slept well the night before). I'm glad he was smart
enough to hand the wheel over if he thought he couldn't make
it safely, but I found out the next night that my own driving
made certain people nervous as well! Mel called me "Leadfoot,"
(sadly, I was never called Blackfoot or Leadbelly, though)
and and I felt appropriately chagrined. I'm a good driver,
right guys? Guys? Gays?
Mel was primary driver, he was given a lot of leeway on CD
selection, although when it was our turn, we'd generally grab
something from our stack and say "Okay, which of these
three do you wanna hear?" Mel tended to chant his selections
when he saw the one he wanted: "Fun-HOUSE! Fun-HOUSE!"
or "Blue-Oyster-CULT! Blue-Oyster-CULT!" This and
many other things always made me laugh.
The CD selections on the trip down are as follows:
of Mel's radio shows...lots of '60s psych like the Zombies
and early T-Rex. On Saturday, Mel also played us his WHPK
Marc Bolan focus show, a real treat
The Stooges, "Fun House"
- Blue Oyster Cult, "Secret Treaties"
- Kool Keith, "Sex Style"
- Delta 5, discography CD, which is scrapped five songs in
due to some weird white noise that we couldn't make stop
- Carmen, "Fandangos In Space," which I'm happy
to report blew some minds, just as I'd hoped!
- Beat Beat Beat! compilation 2CD of knockoff/one-hit-wonder
bands in the undertow of the '63/'64 Liverpool scene
- Darkthrone, "Preparing For War" (soundtrack after
we arrived in Detroit for the rest of the evening's driving)
of discussion along the way:
- all the billboards are either 1) for Bronners' Christmas
Wonderland, signs saying some variant of "Remember 9/11"
or ads for strip clubs/adult bookstores off the highway. Oh,
and fireworks places in IN. Mel gets his first experience
with the Deja Vu tagline, "hundreds of beautiful girls
and 3 ugly ones."
- Gays In The Military, playing live in Frankenmuth, a town
where EVERYBODY dresses eccentrically.
- A billboard for an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ess
comes up with the brilliant one-liner, "Hundreds of beautiful
scrolls, and 3 apocalyptic ones."
in Albion for gas. I use this as an opportunity to get some
water (if past roadtrips have taught me anything [they haven't],
you can get freaked out real fast if you only drink soda and
eat crap and don't keep hydrated) and more jerky, turkey this
time. Sampling the exotic jerkies of SW-ern Michigan.
that if Eminem goes to Bulb Fest, Chanti will make out with
him. Considering how many men in our party are already fully
obsessed with her, this would merely make things more entertaining.
We arrive on Woodward, with the news that one of the other
cars was pulled over for speeding. The first of a few bad
omens for the weekend. Another had taken a wrong exit, but
had made up the time later. Anyway, the Woodward seen off
the exit is, to put it mildly, NOT the sort of area one would
want the hotel in question to be located, but for some reason,
the Mapquest map shows it to be right around...HERE. Uh oh.
We call another car, and it turns out the numbers were punched
in VERY wrong. We're still several miles away from our place!
8 Mile (and a few others), we arrive at the Dunes Motel, where
Chanti's boyfriend and some other guys already have a room.
Immediately, this place doesn't set well with us. They have
all kinds of dicked-up rules, like nobody under 21 is allowed
to stay here, and we all have to show our IDs to get into
our rooms, etc. Too much security going on! It'd be very hard
to follow our game plan and smuggle 7 people into each room,
as we were planning to do. A few phone calls later, and we
find that there is a Travelodge up the way that not only has
rooms available and no age limits on guests (what the fuck
is THAT?), but they have a AAA discount, which two of our
drivers have. Much better!
bad omen of the weekend is when Singha's car breaks down in
the hotel parking lot! Her ignition, or some part leading
to it, is shot! No starting power! Fellow caravaner Mindolene
is from this area, and her parents' house is only 20 minutes
away. She says we can use her parents’ car to get people
to and from the show, though she was hoping not to have to
go that far, since she had had a row with them not two days
before! That is kinda rough...yelling "Leave me alone,
I don't wanna talk about it! [SLAM!]" and then two days
later, "Look, I need to borrow the car. Yes, yes, I'll
see you for lunch tomorrow..."
Mel, ever the ringleader/quartermaster/headmaster/beastmaster
here makes sure that the people staying in our room (aka the
the combination Old Horny Curmudgeon/Young Weirdo room, I
guess) has paid their $20 for both night in advance (how's
that for a deal! What's a little sleeping on the floor between
friends for accomodation that cheap, eh?). Everyone tries
to evade by saying things like "I don't know which room
I'm supposed to be in," but the money soon arrives, and
we're ready to begin the night's adventure.
is just about to start, and damn, we still haven't eaten dinner!
We pile in, and find out that we need to go back down Woodward,
past the jacked-up area, and out the other side, where the
street begins to resemble something more like you'd expect
from the downtown of a suburb of Detroit, or like a small
and slightly decrepit main drag of a small to midsized college
town, say (to use a telling example, since I was just there)
Stick is part of a block long conglomeration of venues/
restaurants/entertainment apparati. It contains such things
as The Majestic Theatre, a bowling alley that no doubt has
some sort of clever name ("Ballbusters" would be
a good name for a bowling alley, don't you think?), and a
pizza joint called Col. Pepperoni's. Plus a cafe with some
hoity name perhaps. A bunch of us get little pizzas, ordered
from a woman who looks and sounds like a cross between Nikola
Lutz of Sudden Infant and something out of a Joel Peter Witkin
photo. Gundam describes this weird entertainment complex as
"as if Bennigans and The Empty Bottle mated and had children."
I think it was meant derogatively, but it was true, and I
really kind of liked the place! Bigger than the Bottle, but
still smaller than the Aragon, Chicago could use a place like
this for when bands like Lightning Bolt or Caroliner come
through (better sound system than the freaking Fireside too)
The Magic Stick was an upstairs club, roughly twice (or maybe
more) the size of the Empty Bottle, with some pool tables
and a big square bar. Very dark apart from where they give
you your tickets. My first impression is that Pete Larson
looks DISTRESSINGLY like Chris Cutler with his hair all grown
out and frizzy. My second is that I'm hungry and my head is
killing me from the lack of nutrition all day (Damn you, Dr.
Atkins!). As they're only showing the Quintron Drum Buddy
video right now, we hurry down for that aforementioned pizza.
We all balk at first at the price of the beer, but after some
more probing questions of the bartender, we find that Milwaukee's
Best is available in cans for $1.50. Ladies and gentlemen,
we have found the calibration line. Let the games begin.
worry, this is going somewhere.
last left our heroes, we had made it to the Majestic Theatre,
underfed and underdrunk (i.e. hungry and sober), ready to
chow down and party down with the best of the beast. It's
really true, y'know...I do learn something new every day.
That day, I learned that it is ILLEGAL to sell aspirin in
bars. Illegal. I realize that aspirin and alcohol are indeed
a bad combination for Mr. Liver, but I'd like you all to take
my word for it when I tell you I've put FAR worse into my
body that a beer, some Bayer Advanced, and a personal pepperoni
and green pepper pizza! Still, this rager of headache kinda
colored my perceptions of the evening, at least the first
half. I'm reminded of the Air Show, where Homer tells Marge,
"I couldn't get any aspirin for your headache, so I bought
you a pack of cigarettes," in that I chose to DRINK my
headache away, rather than endure it in stoic silence. Beer
to stave off a headache. Milwaukee's Best, no less. Good plan,
eh? Well, believe it or not, it worked, dear friends. Well,
close enough, anyway.
noshing and putting a primer coat on our sober asses, most
of us missed Danse Asshole, digging the jukebox
at the bar below, which had played Os Mutantes' "Bat
Macumba" AND ESG's "UFO." I guess it was technically
a very "hipster inclined" selection, but damn, slap
a patch with somebody else’s name on my mechanic shirt
if you must, cuz the groove was JUST RIGHT. We scooted back
upstairs just in time for MC Tracheotomy
to hit the stage.
As I may
have mentioned before, the Magic Stick is a strange place
in layout. It's very spacious, with small things placed in
far corners of this warehouse like field. You've got two video
games and an abandoned corner couch near the stairwell, a
bar and a few booths/tables in another corner, a few pool
tables off to one side, and LOTS of open space elsewhere.
Although the place was jumpin', it was by no means full, though
I can't imagine "full" would have been much fun.
Kinda like being in the pavillion of Pine Knob with all the
inhabitants of BOTH the lawn and the pavillion all standing
around together. Anyway...
is an older looking man, bald, gold chains, tacky sportscaster-y
suit with shirt unbuttoned to navel, big rings. Whole nine.
No "Flattuladies" (his female entourage) today,
no real spectacle per se, just Trach, struttin' back and forth
on stage, beats and songs coming from one of those mysterious
offstage DAT machines or something, just kind of fruggin'
for himself, head down, jivin' into his mic. Those of you
who found the MC Tracheotomy album too weird, but not unlistenable
would have possibly loved this. Trach's Wolfman Jack flow
was here, but none of the weirdo soundbites or tapes of stock
car racing pit crews. Just a dance groove and some headfelt
lyrics, which were easier to comprehend than on record, naturally.
I felt like dancing, but my God, my head felt like burying
itself in a concrete bunker. Thinking maybe my head would
feel better if I just bobbed through the pain. Yark. Yark.
Yark. YAAAAARGH! Nope. Trying to curb my dance instinct during
what was a quite funky little set by Trach was really difficult,
like giving a person booze and then telling them not to tell
long boring stories that go nowhere. Impossible!
that's the answer! More booze! I lay back a few more oat sodas
while waiting for the Demolition Doll Rods.
They're actually on in almost no time flat...I barely have
time to gulp down a second Beast before running up to near
the front of the stage. In front of me (among a few others)
were a trio straight outta the bar jokes archetype book: a
tattooed stripper, a fat chick, and a cross-dressing nancy
boy walk into a bar...and stand right in front of me. Said
nancy boy was about 6'4" after the giant white wig, making
him look like a xerox copy of a Cockettes fan. He looked like
he probably attended every Rocky Horror Saturday midnight
show, and then changed his costume ever so slightly to go
out to a late showing of "Female Trouble." Chanti
later overheard the busty stripper talking in the bathroom
about how she was "Growing her bush back out," as
that was the new trend in strip joints (about thyme, sez I).
They had a good time at the Doll Rods set, I assume, but it
seemed like they were there to be seen above all. Most other
folks around me were there to rock. Amazingly so. Even though
everybody stood in clusters of their friends, faced the stage,
and mostly kinda just swayed back and forth and waved their
arms around sometimes, there really was a different vibe from
Chicago. You looked around, and saw all kinds of incongruities.
Smiles! Laughter! Fights! Come-hither glances! Sexuality!
Enthusiasm! My God, I had forgotten how much I missed it.
During the Doll Rods' set, you could bump into people while
bobbing around, and would either get jovially jostled back,
or shoved brusquely, but you wouldn't get the passive agressive
contemptuous stare! I felt myself blooming like a flower,
Rods, a trio, started out with a trad blues number. Danny,
the guy member of the group played a lapsteel guitar and Margaret
Doll Rod (guitar/singer/leader-mostly) hit a tambourine and
danced seductively. Christine, the drummer just hung out.
All three were dressed to thrill -- homeboy in some spangly
underwear and a cape, Margaret in a real trashy/sexy two piece
(including some classic hotpants!) emerald green affair, and
the drummer in a one-piece leather getup not far removed from
Edith Massey's Aunt Ida outfit in "Female Trouble."
Only she looked DAMN good in it!
group got into full swing, Margaret unleashed her guitar (though
sadly not more skin...all this talk of "85% naked"
did not add up with what I was seeing that night. Perhaps
their 85% days are beind them. Of course, Danny seemed to
be pushing a swift 90% by night's out, which goes to show
that if it's not one thing, it's another), Danny his, and
Christine pounded away on possibly the best drum set-up ever,
one floor tom and a snare. She really made it sing too...no
"intentional atavism" dirt shake here. Shit got
downright funky when the time was right, and one of the syncopations
almost reminded me (not altogether unpleasantly) of '80s Wax
Trax! industrial music. The two-guitar attack was bone-rattling,
and Margaret's voice will scorch the CK Denims off any other
Detroit-based duos, romantically engaged or not (ahem ahem).
The tunes were consistently great, and generally about sexy
stuff without overtly being Crampsian or too kitschy. This
struck me as a band that would rather HAVE sex than talk about
it, a sadly disappearing trend in rock and roll (ask Lemmy
about his take on bands that answer email on the road). At
one point, the 6'+ queenie got up and shook his ass on stage
to Margaret's great approval ("That was some of the finest
dancing I've seen, and I've seen a lot," she said). Later,
Margaret announced that they'd be doing "African Lipstick,"
a track off their one-and-only Bulb release, a 7" with
the same name. She said the song had been about a friend of
hers who had died recently, and as she told us about the friend,
she started welling up, just a bit. Just a quick quaver in
the voice, neither a melodramatic waterworks nor an actor's
trick to get us to care more...just a moment's loss of control.
The audience was rapt. She was laughing again by the time
she counted off the song, and the band put some extra oomph
into this dedication to their departed friend. Crowd's going
nuts by the point. The closing song was an extended (by which
I mean I think they interpolated some of the original and
maybe added some of their own lyrics) version of the bluegrass
standard "Big Rock Candy Mountain." I later found
out this is their new single. The crowd, knowing this song,
even if only from the "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou"
soundtrack, tries gamely to sing along during the a capella
breakdowns, sways unselconsciously, and as well as I can tell,
everybody seems really lost in the moment. LOST IN THE MOMENT.
Really, especially for you Chicago denizens, think of the
last time you saw a whole roomful of people removed from ironic
detachment at a show. It was quite affecting. Everybody screamin'
themselves hoarse for a few more. I can't remember if they
did an encore or not, but if they did, I bet it rocked too.
the lengthy rant above, the Doll Rods set feels like it couldn't
have lasted more than a quarter of an hour. Mel Collins remarks,
"SOMEBODY better play for more than 10 minutes."
Hmm, another good sign of a great show -- when you want sets
to be LONGER. Dunno about you, but to me, most bands overstay
their welcome by a good 10-45 minutes. 'Leave 'em wanting
more' is a concept that's long since gone out the window.
I blame CDs. Anyway, onward...
and Miss Pussycat are next, and I have to admit,
I'd never heard or seen them before this, so I had NO idea
what to expect. The closest I'd come was an album I have by
John Von Ryan, a RI denizen who did a solo organ record that
I heard was "Similar to Quintron." This didn't give
me a lot of hope for the next act, as the Von Ryan disc, while
kinda cool, isn't quite the "freakout dance masterpiece"
I was lead to believe. I had little optimism for a man with
an organ, a hand-made piece of salon electronics, and a woman
with a candystripe nurses uniform, a scowl, and a pair of
maracas (the kind NOT found in her blouse, you dirty, dirty
minded little reader). Happily, I was proven wrong.
Q and MP rocked the hizzouse with more gusto than possibly
anybody that evening! I almost said "of anyone playing
at the fest," but that would have meant going up against
some heavy competition on night two. Anyway, if you haven't
seen Mr. Quintron and Miss Pussycat, you must. The power of
a hard-groovin' organ should be no surprise to those of you
that still feel, as I do, that "Wooly Bully" may
well be the primary accomplishment of 20th century western
culture. Well, this organ grooved ferociously, nonstop, with
some kickin drum patterns and random noises from this here
Drum Buddy thing (which looks like some sort of light-controlled
oscillator mounted on a turntable. The principle is similar
to the "Dream Machines" of Byron Gysin, but the
effect is similar to the freaked out blippery of Gerty Farish
[the band, not the literary figure]). Miss Pussycat just kinda
hung off to one side, playing the stodgy voice of reason most
of the time, while Quintron got increasingly naked (man, everybody
but Margaret and Christine Doll Rod were shedding clothing
like mad, but the two who are known for nude kept it on...what
kind of topsy-turvy mixed-up world is this that we're living
in?). As the shouting and jostling and dancing and interacting
(and come hither glances) got more intense, some friction
developed in the front rows. A couple of young ladies got
jostled by a young man. Perhaps not knowing that when you
stand in the first three rows of a show like this, people
are probably going to spazz out a little, these little overprivileged
street urchins started berating the guy, yelling and giving
the finger, getting everybody's panties around them into a
bunch. Quintron LEAPT into the audience, by which I mean he
went end over end, feet flying through the air, and proceeded
to cut a minor swath of terror through the confused crowd.
For such a skinny, Chris Carter-lookin' dude, he knew what
to do in a party emergency! Taking this opportunity, the gals
pulled themselves on stage, and, in the manner of jilted wives,
danced on stage while flicking off the guy who offended them,
who seemed largely not to care, or notice.
noticing much either, because in between frugging my hairy
ass off, I noticed a couple of different gals giving me the
eye. No, really! Cute girls, too! One in particular caught
my eye. Mid-20s, black hair in almost a femme-pompadour (but
not oiled up, just kinda shaped that way naturally, a less
extreme version of the James Brown Hair Helmet), decked out
in a Delta Airlines T-shirt and a Gulf Oil shoulder bag (there
was something kind of rugged about her kitsch that didn't
make me want to puke). For some reason, I actually managed
to shoot that eye right back at her, winking and grinning
like something slightly more evolved than homo erectus. As
the show came to an end, I even did the unexpected (for me)
and said hi, asked her how she liked the show. She sounded
a smidge more than a smidge drunk, but still in control. "That
wassa first time I got to see Quintron, now that I know who
the fuck he is!" We talked about how fucking GREAT his
set was (what, more set report? Blah blah, more songs, Miss
Pussycat sang one, it was really good, probably had an encore.
Can I get back to my digression now?), kinda rubbin up against
each other and oafishly pawing one another a bit (in the manner
of people who have had about four beers each, as opposed to
the Olympic-style grope that comes about four beers after
that). I still say if there had been even ONE more decent,
high-grooving band that evening, I might have had a chance.
Alas, the night was nearly over, and as I turned to face the
last and, dare I say, BIGGEST surprise of the night (it actually
wasn't a surprise, as I was let in on it a bit earlier, but
it's more fun that way, yes?), she slipped away into the night
before I could even say, "You gonna be here tomorrow?"
my expectations for the "surprise guests" section
of the invite, Bulbfest gamely provided us with a real treat...a
COUCH reunion! Well, sorta. Marlon Magas
was nowhere in sight (I still can't tell for sure whether
he and Pete still aren't getting along or if he really had
other committments), so Mike Connelly of the Hair Police played
him, donning the big specs and all. "Hi, I'm Marlon Magas,
you may have seen me opening for Adult..." and so on.
Very funny. Dilloway behind the traps and Pete on the axe,
it was close enough for jazz. Quintron led everyone in the
audience in a long a capella rendition of "Old Man,"
which started the Couch set. Mike (er, Magas) asks for requests,
and I start howling "Chinese Mechanic" from across
the room. Perhaps someone else was yelling that nearby, or
maybe he actually heard me, but praise be, they ripped into
my all-time favorite Couch song, "Chinese Mechanic,"
complete with the "mumblemumblemumble
mumbleCHA CHEE HA!!!" intro. They blast on a few verses,
when some guy jumps on stage (someone on some messageboard
said who it was, but I didn't know him) and busts Connelly
right in the lip, knocking him back into Dilloway's drum kit.
The lights come on anyway since it's 2:00 a.m., and it's all
over. As successful a night one as I could imagine.
for one thing...poor planning means piss poor performance,
and in this case, we didn't pre-plan for the after-party.
NO DAMN BOOZE! We hunkered back into our motel rooms with
not a drop of beer in sight, and not a place that would sell
any to us. A few of us hiked over to the nearby White Castle,
and when we got back, we found out that 20 year old college
students are indeed industrious when it comes to doling out
the buzzes. We saw Tartan and others snorting lines off the
hotel room table. Wondering if this was going to turn into
some sort of crazed loudmouth talkfest, I was later saddened
to find out that the truth was actually even worse...they
were snorting fucking XANAX! Dude! I dunno, I guess that's
the time in your life to go after the all-consuming buzz,
but jeezus, this just seemed silly, one step up from smoking
peanut skins (doesn't work, trust me...banana peels either.).
At this point, a sentient among us says that magic word, "Tussin."
Oh no. The cheapest of all highs has been invoked. This can
go nowhere but down. One can only be thankful there were no
grocery stores nearby, lest someone come back with a crate
of Reddi-Whip. Quote of the night goes to Rudiger, to nobody
in particular in the room: "So, you TUSSIN IT tonight?"
About six people decide that they are "TUSSIN IT tonight."
Tartan, Gundam, Rudiger, Gabardine, Link and maybe one other
person. I predict this will drastically shorten the night,
which is probably fine if we wanna be at our best the next
day. It's already 4 a.m. by this point. Everybody downs a
bottle, and stagger around all arrogant, like they just beat
the system. For about 10 minutes. Then the lights start going
off. Mel and Estragon retreat to the other, less partyin'
room, to get some sleep. Fortunately, I was given a spot on
the bed, so when it's time for lights out, I just roll over
for great victory. Gabardine lays down IN THE CLOSET, a tactic
I don't condone, but he swears he does it all the time. Sandro,
Mindolene, Singha and I all get our last laughs in at the
expense of our falling heroes, and the lights are extinguished
for night one.
awaken, I look over to see that the closet door, which was
closed, is now open, and that the closet does not, as I feared,
contain a gray, cold body. He has risen! He is not here! See
the place where he lay? Uh, anyway, I later found out that
Gabardine and Tartan went out early in the morning for a "Spirit
Walk." It seems that some people who drink the fermented
spirit of the Tussa Tree in large quaffs actually feel speeded
up about four hours later, and have to walk it off. We later
hear they walked miles in all directions, stumbling upon an
estate sale and a nearby record store.
a bit earlier (though not as early as Tartan and Gabardine),
and as I write these notes out on the stairwell leading to
the second floor, I see the cleaning lady coming. Thinking
quickly, I put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on our
door, imagining that most hotel employees would be less than
thrilled to see how much advantage we are taking of them.
I ask her if we can have a few more pillows, and just to leave
the towels outside...I'll take them in. She agrees, but as
I go to take it all inside, she manages to follow me in. Everyone's
just getting up and stumbling around, but we all stiffen at
the sound of her voice, which is kind of motherly, but surprised.
"Oh my God, how many people you got in here?" We're
sure our goose is cooked, but luckily, she confesses that
she doesn't mind. "As long as you're comfortable, it
don't matter to me. Just make sure my manager doesn't see
all of you, or you're gonna have to get some more rooms. Just
remember what I'm doing for you, and be sure to leave a little
sumpin' sumpin' for your cleaning lady when you leave."
She even lets Tartan borrow her vacuum cleaner, so he doesn't
have to sleep in potato chip fragments a second night. Tartan
sounds like a little kid at this point. "I'm really sorry
(mommy), but I kinda spilled my potato chips all over, and
then I slept in them. Can I use your vacuum???" She leaves,
obviously amused, and we all hang back and watch cartoons
for a while. A truly muddled (even for those of us who woke
up relatively unscathed) cartoon about a bunch of animals,
mostly hippos, is playing on what seems to be a PBS station.
Lotta broad humor, very obvious character parodies (jaques
cousteau, rodney dangerfield, etc.) and utterly nonsensical
or maddening humor. One episode is about a "temper jar,"
basically an extension of the classic "swear jar,"
with a very attentive flamingo in charge of separating a hyperactive
couple from their pennies. I can't remember how it ends, but
I'm pretty we sure we all learned a lesson about losing your
temper, and about butting in where you don't belong.
Saturday morning, and we had a good 10 hours before night
two of the festivities proper. It was time to do some exploring.
First up was lunch. Mel, Estragon and I went out to look for
some place to eat, and we found this excellent sandwich shop
about 15 blocks from our hotel. There was really nothing Ess
could eat there, but Mel and I each got a sandwich; mine was
a BBQ beef with a side of onion rings. What could be better?
Ess got a veggie sub at a nearby Subway. By the time we got
back to the room, it had all but cleared out. While we ate,
the Discovery Channel told us all about the phenomenon of
Gigantism, what it actually does to the body, and why these
people die so early in life. Suffice it to say, growing up
a true giant does not sound as good as you might think! Sandro,
Tartan, Gundam, and Link return from what we later find out
was a pretty successful record store run. A place we had passed
by a few times that didn’t look like much turned out
to have a pretty stellar vinyl cheapie bin. Somebody in the
group got a copy of the Buzzcocks’ "Singles Going
Steady" for a dollar, surely one of the greatest finds
of the day (or so I thought...). After the Gigantism doc and
some other thing, some of us (including a few people who went
to the first record store) decided some high-powered record
shopping was in order. We quizzed Mindolene, the native of
the area, for good record shops. She gave us a name of this
place not that nearby (a good half hour away), so Ess, Mel,
Gundam, Sandro and I piled into Mel’s not-fit-for-five-large-people-mobile
and tried to find what we could find. Soundtrack for the afternoon
was ESG's "A South Bronx Story," windows down, gorgeous
hot spring day.
in question was, to put it mildly, a disappointment. It was
basically a small CD store that was laid out like a Sam Goody
or some such, but owned locally. Not exactly the kind of place
you’d go to hunt down a dusty vinyl bargain! The CD
bargain bin turned out to be a revelation, though. I managed
to snag no less than FIFTEEN CDs, each priced at 50 cents,
even though I was somehow beaten to the punch (by both Gundam
and Estragon) in grabbing not one, but TWO copies of the same
Crawling With Tarts CD! Gundam also found a quite righteous
Brother JT disc for this price, bringing his total transaction
to a cool buck. I found a variety of treats, from can’t
miss (Double U, Richard Franecki), to take-a-chancers (new
Styrenes, Bushwick Bill), to likely-failures-but-why-not-shit-it’s-only-fifty-cents
(Bourbonese Qualk, Brian Ladd, an On-U Sound comp). Sadly,
I did not find any 50 Cent for 50 cents. Not even a CD single!
as I looked hard and long for a third copy of the Crawling
With Tarts CD, Gundam was grilling the guy up front for "any
good record stores...you know, as in RECORDS. OLD. CHEAP."
It was the most assertive I’ve ever seen him! The guy
recommended we travel out to not-so-nearby Hamtramck to a
place called Record Graveyard. Promising name! We squeezed
our big asses into the small vehicle like five clowns in a
Volkswagen and took off toward our next destination.
let me tell you, the store was well named! This is the place
where all vinyl, seemingly all the vinyl in the world, comes
to take a final dirt(y) nap. A giant room just stuffed with
every kind of record available, this was like the record store
of your dreams! Huge sections of rock, soul, psych/garage,
country, you name it. Most of the stuff wasn’t priced,
so you had to walk up to the guy with a big stack of possible
purchases, and he’d grab the stack, look at each record
individually, and rattle 'em off: "Hmm...three dollars,
two fifty, ten, eight dollars, and, oh, let’s say six
fifty." Then you’d decide which of those was really
worth it to you. The choices seemed arbitrary (I paid $10
for a Blowfly record, but a very rare and limited pressing
Dick Gregory album only put me back $3), but more often than
not, you felt like you were coming out a winner. Just about
everybody spent much more than their planned budget here,
much to the delight of the owner, I’m sure. Make no
mistake, though...this wasn’t some dumpy, seldom-visited
mom n’ pop. There were other shoppers around, and they
KNEW what they were looking for. I imagine Record Graveyard
wouldn’t need to take their wares to record shows. If
appearances were any indication, it seems that vinyl fanatics
would find THEM.
my fellow travelers, I started browsing in my favorite spot
of any record store – the dollar bin. You know how these
usually go...most dollar bins are exactly the same. Everything’s
in reasonably good shape, but there’s little there you'd
either want or don’t already have ("Whipped Cream"
anyone?). Well, the dollar bin here was dead opposite. Just
about everything in here was in ATROCIOUS shape – covers
half torn off, water damage, vinyl that looked like someone
had been using it for a seat cushion or BB gun target –
but what FINDS! If you’re like me, a bit of record grit
ain’t no big thing, and you can’t hear a record
cover anyway, so what the fuck? Dig this haul. Among others,
I found dollar copies of:
Hendrix - "Band of Gypsies" (bonus: many bad nicks
in the vinyl = excellent lock grooves, particularly during
- Jimi Hendrix - "in the West"
- first ELP (s/t with angel on cover)
- Steppenwolf - "At Your Birthday Party"
- "Boogie With Canned Heat"
- AC/DC - "Highway To Hell"
- Phil Ochs - "Rehearsals for Retirement"
some other stuff I’d just as soon not go into here (let's
just say one of them had the initials NROTPS and leave it
at that). Solid! Along with the aforementioned Blowfly and
Dick Gregory, I also found a still-sealed Coyle & Sharpe
LP, and the music of Erik Satie played on two acoustic guitars.
Oh, and Tom T. Hall’s Greatest Hits (all the killer
old shit, before he did "I Love..." I can't STAND
that song! Worse than all the post-heroin Aerosmith ballads
combined. Oh yeah, Aerosmith's "Get Your Wings"
was in the dollar bin too! Sweet! Remember when they ruled?
No? Well they did, take my word for it).
take notes as to what else everyone bought, and it’s
been so long now, but suffice it to say, everybody left happy.
Garage psych seemed to be the order of the day, with Ess and
Mel walking away with albums by the Raspberries and the Rationals.
I was also thrilled that the store had a turntable to listen
to potential purchases, because I almost bought an album featuring
former Yes keyboardist Patrick Moraz playing with, get this,
a PAN FLAUTIST! I imagined a disaster of Plan 9 proportions,
as this legendarily fidgety and self-absorbed ivorymaster
went toe to toe with baby Zamfir in an empty room. Well, praise
be that I got to try'd before I buy'd, because what I didn’t
expect was the presence of a ludicrously dull and flatulent
"fusion" band playing in the background. From so-bad-its-the-soundtrack-to-the-third-circle-of-Hell
to merely a dull ache, I put it back with just a bit of mist
in the eyes. Maybe next time.
we took a LOT longer here than we were expecting (and most
of us had blown our food/booze budgets for the rest of the
weekend -- thank Allah for Le Plastiqe de MasteurCharge, no?),
and were now officially running a bit late for tonight’s
festivities. Eager to show off our goods to the young’ns
back at the hotel, we found our room hot, smelly, and reeking
of whiskey, a half-gallon of which was being passed around.
There was also a nasty feeling in the room. It didn’t
smell like a room full of happy, God-fearing horndogs, more
like a roomful of people who were trying to drink sexual tension
AWAY, rather than will it into being. The idea of the room
erupting, after the foreplay of five more Bulb bands, into
a beer-soaked orgy seemed out of the question now. The gang
were making troubles that weren’t there, getting their
panties into a bunch, just like mom n’ dad on vacation.
If you’d stop bickering for just five minutes, you might
notice that we just drove by the goddamn GRAND CANYON. C’mon,
Carpe Scrotum, ya jagoffs! Let’s not spend tonight’s
afterparty in separate corners, licking wounds. Okay? There
are better things to lick.
found out that another faction traveled all the way out to
nearby Ann Arbor, only to end up driving around and seeing
HS graduation party after HS graduation party, punctuated
only by frat boys and hacky sacks. I have one word for you,
just one word: Hamtramck.
buying a few cases of beer for the room, Ess and Mel and I
decide to walk down to a nearby Thai restaurant for dinner.
Our punctuality for night two is already looking grim, and
the slow service isn’t helping! We finally manage to
get everybody into the remaining cars, and make our way to
the Magic Stick for the main events.
Sure enough, we soon find out that we missed all of Nautical
Almanac and most of Mind Flayer. Please, gentle reader,
do not judge us too strong...Record Graveyard REALLY was amazing,
and who knows when we’ll be breezing through Hamtramck
again! 'sides, when was the last time you went to a show that
started ON TIME!?!? We figured we'd be slightly late, rather
than amazingly late. Anyway, we got to see the end of Mind
Flayer, which means the drum kit was being moved
around a lot. Even in the last five minutes, it seems like
Chippendale pulled up stakes no less than four times! Sounded
great, of course...Brinkman and Chippendale are both built
for live performance above all. Just wish I had more details
it's time to assemble the 2000 or so cables and boxes that
comprise Wolf Eyes' rig, so I went off to
the merch tables to see what was shaking. Liz, the Wolf Eyes
merch lady, was once again in attendence, which is always
nice. I'd seen Wolf Eyes three different times in four or
five weeks, so she recognized me and greeted me with an enthusiastic
high-five. If you're at a Wolf Eyes show, definitely go say
hi to Liz, she's a blast. She's like your cool female friend
from high school, the one that was a refuge from all the lowest
common denominators on the homecoming committee, except here,
she's also all like, "...and this is the new recording.
It's the first one with a live version of 'Black Vomit' on
it. It's really brutal, it's so good, you should check it
out!" I was already mostly caught up with the new output
(having been to those other shows and already emptying my
wallet a few times), so I just got a T-shirt with the "Mugger"
album cover on it. I swear, I think my Mugger T-shirt is cursed!
I've had bad bad luck the last two times I've worn it. But
that's a story for another report. (UPDATE: I wore it last
night to a concert and had a real nice time. Never mind.)
was kickin' it at the HereSee table, and I was excited to
see lots of new stuff around, including the mega-rad pic disc
(HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!), and a tape featuring one of my favoritest
people (in general, even apart from musically), Humectant
Interruption (aka Joel St. Germain). Carly's wit and enthusiasm
made me regret missing their set more than ever (though there
have been other non-missed opportunities
really time yet, but I wanted to get a spot up near the stage
for Wolf Eyes, and besides, the longer I loitered near the
merchandise, the more I tried rationalizing the purchase of
just a FEW more CDRs. Along the way, I was pushed along through
a crowd of people, and who do you think I saw, being pushed
in the opposite direction via another crowd, but the little
lady I had enjoyed a friendly little game of "drunken
paw" with the night before! However much I tried to search
when coming back, I never did see her again. I did, however,
bump into the perpetually congenial Mike Shiflet of Gameboy
Records. We eagerly chattered about the upcoming set. Mike
was especially excited, as he'd missed the bulk of their set
opening for Sonic Youth in Chicago, and wanted to see what
"this was all about."
was shot through with people obviously there ONLY to see Andrew
WK, and who looked less than thrilled by the show thus far.
I had a feeling Wolf Eyes would be the make or break band
for them. Mel and I pushed as far up as we could, getting
as far into the most violent point of the crowd as we could
stand. Once again, the sound system seemed inadequate to really
capturing the Wolf Eyes sound in the perfect brutal clarity
that is required. I saw them at the Empty Bottle a month before,
with their huge and sharp sound system, and it literally brought
me to my knees, weeping. The Magic Stick's PA setup was somewhere
between the Bottle and the mud-sound of the Fireside Bowl.
Since it seems like Wolf Eyes were constantly changing their
sound for a few years there, I always thought, whenever I
saw them at the Fireside, that they were taking a more "noise"
direction than usual. Turns out they were just frying the
shitty speaker system!
was still plenty of pound here, and while I would have preferred
the volume to be beefed by a decibel or 20, the point was
decently made. They played most of the "Hits," including
"Rotten Tropics," "Half Animal, Half Insane,"
"Dead Hills 2," "Wretched Hog/Desert of Glue"
(I think), and lots of others I didn't know by name, only
by beat. It's weird...there's SO LITTLE to hold onto in a
Wolf Eyes song. It's really just a beat and maybe a bassline
or keyboard squiggle. But within seconds of any of these things
starting, parts of the crowd start braying insanely! Make
no mistake, the crowd plugged into this set almost immediately,
and the effect was violent, but...strangely slow. There is
no doubt in my mind that I was getting slammed on in the pit,
but it was all in slow motion. At a hardcore show, it's all
a flurry of arms & legs, which frequently turns into a
fist in your face. The push & shove in the pit at this
Wolf Eyes show was most exaggerated. No short sharp shocks.
People would put both hands on you and push you away with
their entire bodies. It was like being in an ocean of slowly
roiling crude oil, as opposed to the crowd of a Hair Police
show, where you're thrashing around in boiling hot water.
There was a big dude in front of me who started really going
nuts during the fast part in "Half Animal, Half Insane,"
and it took like four other big guys to kind of calm him back
down. Then, just when we thought we'd been pummeled enough,
Olson hurtled himself into the crowd, cutting a TRUE swath
of terror. This guy knows what to do in a pit! More so than
Quintron even! Looks of aggression or enthusiasm turned to
pure fear as Olson started waving his fists around wildly,
smashing anyone within armspan. It took about seven or eight
people (or so it seemed) to finally push his ass back on stage.
While it was cool to see so many people who obviously had
never heard or seen Wolf Eyes before (the effect is similar
to seeing people watch "Duck Soup" for the first
time, a sort of total incredulous amazement), the low-volume
(the crowd was all but begging the sound guys to turn it up)
plus the slightly mushy sound mix kept it from being the best
show I've ever seen by these guys. Neverthless, we were all
spent, and Mike summed up the whole experience with one perfectly
worded "uhhhhhhhhhhh" of obvious ecstacy.
the people bedecked in every kind of AWK regalia didn't seem
to think so, the next set was looking like the actual peak
of the evening. Pete and Fumi, aka our gracious hosts, aka
the unassailable 25 Suaves. If they sounded
anything live like they did on their album, we were about
to get our nuts and/or tits in a real wringer! I wandered
nervously around the merch area, waiting for Bulbfest, Year
Zero. Again, the AWK legions looked pissed and figety. C'mon
guys, isn't it TIME TO PARTY? Shouldn't we all WANT FUN? Aren't
you having fun? No? Well, hold your horses. You'll get your
chance to annoy the fuck out of me in about 45 minutes.
hit the stage about 20 minutes after the wolf guys, and didn't
so much as mumble "howdy" before tearing into "Party
Disease." I was amazed to hear that Larson's guitar sounds
exactly like it does on the album, despite the lack of overdubs!
HUGE sound for just two people. Most of the crowd goes wild,
pumping fists, throwing each other around, shouting, arms
waving. Pete played with a bug-eyed intensity that put everybody
on both night's bills to shame. He looked like Stretch Armstrong
a half centimeter from break point, arms and legs at maximum
extension, muscles tensed, brain on fire. Fumi bashed the
traps powerfully, but with more grace and less spasticity.
Pete kept hitting his head with his hand between songs (and
sometimes during songs). I wasn't quite sure what it meant.
Was he telling us to "THINK!," or was it just a
sort of rock n' roll tic? More like "Aaaah! My brain's
on fire!" Whatever, the set reached a howlingly intense
frenzy about five minutes in, and didn't settle down once.
25 Suaves do not play ballads, and as of now, they don't play
any of their older, no wave styled stuff either. This was
straight 1938 material (if you haven’t heard it, imagine
Motorhead with more bulgy-eyed intensity and less slow swagger),
including "Michigan," which now has lyrics about
how it rules to live in Michigan, "1938," "Get
It Right," "Saturday." Hmm, though I can't
remember if they played "Juan Rules," my favorite.
I don't think they did...I woulda remembered it! Pete threw
himself into the crowd (which happily carried him around)
a few times, and as I was holding onto him right in front
of his face, I could see that he was at complete peace. Any
tension or worry that had been involved in setting up this
humongous endeavor was gone the second he turned on his amp.
Wolf Eyes may have been more intense, Quintron more funky,
and the Couch reunion more unexpected, but the 25 Suaves were
just MORE. They turned all of our internal dials, which were
burning hot at 9, right up to boiling point, the catalyst
that sealed the entire weekend up. Hugs and cheers filled
now for the part that will get me pulled from the Blastitude
Summer Tubing Weekend Club invite list. I didn't stick around
for Andrew WK. I couldn't see any reason
to, and neither did my traveling companions. With all due
respects to the Bulb gang and the readers out there, while
I think Mr. WK himself sounds like a pretty amazing human
being (provided his interview persona isn't totally fabricated,
which I don't think it is), the music does less than nothing
for me! A few of us hung out in the back by the bar for about
three songs, and then hit the street running. Although our
tardiness has caused to only see two full-length sets this
evening, we had seen all we needed to.
back to the Travelodge, we decided to get a jumpstart on the
beer and jabber excitedly about Wolf Eyes and the Suaves until
the rest of the traveling party returned. More White Castle,
and I think someone turned on the clock radio to a local R
& B/Hip Hop station. We had been joking the night before
about how ridiculous it was that fourteen radio DJs had come
to a show in another town, and not ONE of us had thought to
bring a portable stereo! It was suggested that we might tear
the front wall off the room and back the car in so we could
hear some Darkthrone, but there wasn't enough beer in the
room for that. As we bobbled around to 50 Cent and yesterday's
Ja Rule hits, the remaining folks came in. We argued briefly
about the merits of Mr. WK, but soon settled into mildly drunken
chitchat. Mindolene, Mel and I took turns trying to outdo
each other by busting various Eminem verses (still one of
the biggest guilty pleasures among the weirdo crowd I've ever
seen! It's like there's a popular majority of people that
love Eminem, a large but smaller minority that hate him, and
then within that, there's a VERY tiny minority of people who
pretend who have little to do with the top 40 but endlessly
praise him, super defensively, to the large minority. I am
one of these people, hence the pseudonym) while others kept
Rudiger and Gundam away from the Tussin (the previous night,
near the end of the Tussin binge, Gundam started saying, “Okay,
now for tomorrow night, we’ll start out with some Tussin,
and then move on to…” which caused me to snap,
“Well, why don’t we actually BUY SOME DAMN BOOZE
TOMORROW NIGHT!?!?” Maybe I was mistaken in thinking
that the cough syrup bender was simply an attempt to make
the best of a bad situation).
began to get fidgety, talking endlessly about "the way
we do things in Raleigh." He informed us all that if
we were going to spend a night in Detroit, we had better take
advantage of the best thing Detroit has to offer at 3:30 a.m.
-- peep shows! Mel grilled many to see who wanted to go, and
the masses responded with a "hell yes!," but when
the chips were down, most of these men-children backed down
and retreated into another beer, weakly implying that "all
the ladies are already here...you don't know what you'll be
missing!" Well, we came back not too long later, and
I didn't see any sign of torn bodices or smell any funk in
the walls, so I call bullshit on all those who would not walk
the stiff-legged boner-pants walk with us.
I managed to rope Rudiger into coming along. It was his first
time doing something this seedy, and he seemed as excited
by the opportunity as we were to show him the ropes. We also
brought along "The Marshall Mathers LP," which Rudiger
also hadn't heard, giving us the opportunity to at least try
for a perfect Detroit experience.
Well friends, as I said before, we returned not TOO long after
we set out. For you see, all the great looking peep shows
that we saw driving into town either closed early, or may
have not been open for many years. It was hard to tell if
we had been mistaking burned out former buildings for active
businesses or if they really shut their doors after 4 a.m.,
but what our trip actually amounted to was listening to the
CD and driving up and down Woodward a few times, distressingly
close to the sort of thing high schoolers do on a Saturday
night. There was a Deja Vu on the strip that was still open,
but that was another matter entirely. It's easy to blow WAY
too much money in a strip club, and after the Record Graveyard,
we were all a little wary of any future binges. Plus, 4 a.m.
at a strip club is a little too much like being at last call
at a 4 a.m. bar. At least being at a peep show in the wee
hours of the night has the decency to seem solidly repellant!
We passed an adult bookstore with lights on, hoping they might
have an arcade in the back, but we saw only the cleaning guy.
And no, contrary to what you see on those videos, he wasn't
screwing Jenna Jameson or Kylie Ireland...he was just vacuuming.
I think he was imagining such a scenario as he ran the Hoover,
so all was not lost.
drove back, we tried to come up with some imaginative stories
about what had happened at the peep shows (we left with such
bluster, it seemed a shame to come back with nada). We agreed
that if anyone asked, we got one of the ladies to stick a
$20 bill up her ass. That seemed plausible enough. As we re-entered
the room (which, as I said before, had not turned into a sex
den, but pretty much looked exactly as it did before, plus
a few more empty beer bottles lying around), we started with
this story, but we all broke down at once. "Goddammit,
they were all closed!!!" Nobody was very sympathetic.
By now, it was going on 4:30 or 5, and lights started going
out (in people's heads and in the room alike). Tartan had
passed out sprawled across the bed, and was proving impossible
to wake (earlier in the evening, during the show, Tartan had
managed to talk some lady in the crowd into joining him, on
stage, just about beneath Pete's feet during the Suaves set,
for a heavy makeout session in front of the monitors). People
started collapsing on the floor, and as I took my own spot
in the corner, I felt much as Pete had looked during his set,
that everything that we had come to do had been done.
morning was a mess. Everybody was hungover and out of it,
and most drivers had every intention of getting the fuck out
of there. Pronto, Tonto! Those that had driven up with Singha
had to find alternate methods of transportation while her
car was being repaired. Several people without classes on
Monday stayed an additional day in town, and a few took late
Amtraks back. I was so glad to be Mel's car now! We hit the
road (after doing a rudimentary cleanup of the room and passing
that hat for our cleaning lady who didn't turn us in) around
9 a.m., silent and moody. "Marshall Mathers" was
still on the stereo, and wasn't quite as big of a hit now.
We stopped at Dunkin Donuts for Mel's caffeine IV and some
fritters. After the initial fatigue/tension/
hangovers wore off, the drive back was actually pretty pleasant
(if mostly silent). Estragon studied, Chanti napped, and Locane
(our new riding companion) looked out the window and/or slept.
Mel and I continued to jabber about music or Detroit and its
lame peep shows or whatever. Although I don't remember the
whole list, here are some of the discs I remember being played
on the way home:
Young, "Time Fades Away"
- The Byrds, "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo"
- The Beach Boys, "Smile Sessions"
- Bulb Singles comp #2
one or two others, I don't know. We got back to the U of C
campus as the Wolf Eyes tracks from the Bulb comp were finishing.
The sun was hot, it was a bit sticky, and there seemed to
be nowhere to go but for a shower and a nap. Thanks Pete,
we all had a real good time.
YOU all for reading this!