by Tony Rettman

I never thought I’d be in a situation like this ever again in my life. But will you look at me? Crammed inside a van, stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on the middle of 95 North. I gotta full bladder, a turtlehead, and a fucking tuba logged in my shoulder. It’s ‘been awhile’ since I took a Rock ‘N’ Roll road trip with a gaggle of soundicians and right about now I’m feeling not unlike Danny Glover in a flipped over squad car. So now I hear you chime in to quit my bitching. Fair enough. Then I hear you axe why I’m even here in the first place. Even fairer. You see, the challenge was thrown down Burt style for me to ride a psychedelic shitstorm right into the eye of the New Wet America with three groups of urban conceptual gorillas (yes, that is the correct spelling). And I took it. Took it like a man. Right now, I’m sitting on the amp head (and I repeat, amp head!) that belongs to Brian Sullivan of Brooklyn based monster chomp duo Mouthus. I am occupying space in their van along with William, one of the two members that make up Axoltol, a Brooklyn-cum-San Francisco duo of genuine weed fueled nutbars. Somewhere ahead of us in a sporty hatchback are those cute / fuzzy / constantly throbbing Double Leopards and crazy Carl from Axolotl. Many hours from now we will all meet up and converge on Hampshire College in Northampton, Massachusetts to drink, smoke, throw snowballs at frat boys and other such bizz. I got my box cutter at the ready like I’m Mackie himself. Those hippies won’t know what fucken hit ‘em, man.

So like I was saying, we’re stuck in this horrific traffic jam and we haven’t even got out of frigging New York yet. The minimalist techno booming through the van via William’s iPod makes the situation even more plodding and hopeless. At least to me it does. We curse the fact the weed supply is in the DL mobile and make do with staring at the interior of the van or at our shoes or into the sun. I’m not much of a talker and I feel sorry for William for this fact. Nothing like being stuck in the back of a van with someone who just might look over at you mistakenly and cast a nervous smile your way. REAL comfortable. After two hours (no shit) of not even stop ‘n’ start (just stop dude) we finally sail up and around the flipped over tractor trailer that burdened us for so long. Pallets are strewn every which way and the thought of the individuals actually involved in this thing pass like lightning. Thoughts of a wide-open road are just too appealing and I concentrate on that. All of us are so enamored with our newfound freedom that we immediately stop (?!?!?) into a truck stop for toilet help and foul fucken grub. After evacuation, I stand by the van and wait for the others. Nate (drummer for Mouthus) comes towards the van with an actual factual cafeteria tray that has a closed Styrofoam container on the top of it. He looks bewildered to say the least. He opens the container to reveal a foot long, foot width hot dog covered in chili, relish, the works. ‘I didn’t know what I was getting!’ he exclaims as we marvel and giggle at the phallic foulness of the meat product. Above all the juvenile cackling Nate blurts out ‘It looks like a horse cock covered in shit!’ Oh...too rich.

The foot long in question. Exhibits A + B.

And so we get back into the van and the vibe seems a bit more lively. We might actually get there this time around. ‘Bonzo’s Montreux’ blares out and I feel much better. William writes a postcard while leaning on a tambourine, a most romantic and asinine gesture. Perhaps it’s to a love in San Francisco or a family member or absolutely no one at all. Nonetheless, it’s a sweet sight to see after the hollow misery we’ve been through in that grueling jam. As the wheels spin faster, I gaze out the window. I watch the guardrail breeze by faster and faster until it corrodes from my senses and becomes extinct. It’s not poking me in the ribs like a tuba or a violin, so it doesn’t adhere to my reality. I stare at it all go by like it’s nothing. The WWF headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut rolls by and reminds me of coming into the state to see Hardcore shows in my younger daze. That building was always the sign we were that much closer to getting there. That much closer to having my windshield busted by thugs or standing on the side of the stage at The Anthrax or scoring a Wide Awake shirt…yeah, all the shit floods by and stops dead in front of my mind’s eye and it ain’t coming back anytime soon, so fuck it, let’s rock. Right now, all I want is my ass to be on something cushioned and to drink a beer sometime in the near future. As darkness falls upon the outside world, I have no more entertainment in my window to the world. I close my eyes and fake sleep to avoid eye contact and conversation. I close my eyes and see a girl. I see
her eyes. I see her hips. She looks down to the ground and her eyes…wait…you say you’ve heard this one before?

Fast forward to us actually getting into Northampton. The whole place looks like a hippy Norman Rockwell painting. All snow and red barns and all natural this and all natural that. All of a sudden, something feels like it’s crawling up my back. We finally get on the Amherst campus and everything is like a Southwestern apartment complex designed by Escher. Real gross. The pad where the gig is going down is completely barren right now. From the outside, it looks like a quaint winter hideaway in the middle of nowhere. Inside it resembles a 7-11 in the middle of the tundra. Once it fills up, it will carry heavy Brady Bunch vibes. We get back into the van to acquire beers and bad Mexican food and upon return, it seems all of our entourage has arrived. This party is starting to swing. I sit in a cushioned chair and Chris from Double Leopards hands me a beer. It’s about damn time! Fat guys (other than myself) and scruffy collegiate types start to fill up the place. Numerous joints appear out of nowhere and are passed among the visiting types. I axe if anyone in the weed circle has a bottle opener and I’m handed one of those big ass bottle/can openers with the white handle that you usually keep in your kitchen. I later find out it was stolen from the kitchen of a NYC celebrity who ‘frequents’ this neck of the woods when he needs his temples massaged with maple syrup and root wine. Before I can scream ‘eBay!’, the object is torn from my palms and visions of buying both Lucy Davis’ undergarments and the Crowbar single are gone, gone, gone. So I decide to just get fucked up a little more while privately bemoaning the lack of collegiate ass on a college campus (?!?!) while also waiting for the local yokel opening act to begin. Multi-tasking.

And just when I’m warm as a strudel the locals, bathTime, decide to start up. Two scraggily kids with three (count ‘em…three!) laptops and a real young girl who looks like a punk extra from a John Hughes film playing the violin. To be honest….this didn’t look promising. But pretty soon, I’m just standing there and they got the whole room humming some sorta wordless electric prayer of legitimacy. I am officially intrigued as are my jaded NYC compadres. An awkward stage presence on the part of the fiddle player adds to my interest. Not only that, but they know when enough is enough. Twenty or so minutes of scalp scorching and bing bang, they’re oaf like a corset in the night. The CDR they were so gracious to hand off to me entitled ‘Just Creatures’ ain’t all too shabby itself. The tracks that are obviously more computer generated are decent enough, but the ones that seem to be using old school electronic elements are the ones that turn my mind into so much mulch my dad would make me lay on warm Spring mornings. There’s no info what so ever on the packaging of this thing, so I dunno how to tell you to lay your hands on it. Pray to the church of Alex Pain and perhaps it will come to you in an erotic dream.

It might be my state of intoxication getting the best of me, but it seems Axolotl have somehow magically set up out of nowhere and are rocking the house something fierce. Not to say everyone’s got their scarves out and over their heads, but they sound damn fucken good. The set they threw out last night in Brooklyn was alright, but lacked something to keep my attention fixed on them and their orgo-droning. Tonight they come off like Ralf and Florian reborn as suburban U.S stoners. Tiny beats ping pong around the Technicolor fog kicked up from their various boxes and switches on the ground. I close my eyes ever so slightly to concentrate on the subtly pulsing rhythms zapping around the rec room. My insides vibrate in time to the sound confusion like a tightly wound thumb. My outer shell feels intense pressure and reacts in the same way your ocular cavities do when you push your palms right into them. A physical sensation of red and green dots with a black background. A drunken etch-a-sketch fantasy coming from the imagination of a grown man. And just before I can get to level three of Donkey Kong in my head, the set is over. I open my eyes to see many others waking themselves from self-administered reality deprivation and I don’t feel so stupid. Maya and I bathe William in glowing praise and I go off to bum a smoke and sit in the gazebo.

Axolotl (right) get the 'thumbs up' from a Double Leotard (left)

At this point, it might be quite obviously a bad idea to document anything going on around me. Beer flows like urine into Schnerbo’s mouth and the bud supply seems never ending among these wacky white college kids. In Brooklyn, snow is the obtrusive gray equivalent of dog shit. Here it seems such a natural part of the surroundings. Like they would preserve it in the warmer months just to keep the serenity afloat. My drunken eyes look up to a sky free of loss. A dark sheen acting as a bubble over the area to conserve the celebratory joy of our surroundings. As much as I love to be a prick, there really is something special about this area of the Northeast. It’s so obvious in its beauty and mysterious in its allure. Just like a cheap perfume. It’s no wonder every fanboys’ spiritual father Byron Coley spent many a barefoot winter here in his youth breaking both collarbones and hearts. And now a human sized bunny rabbit has found its way into the proceedings, blending in perfectly with the snow and not so much with the den room. But there’s no resurrection of Christ for two more months. What gives? Before I can reach out to grab fur, the bunny is gone in the night. Lost forever? Who knows…and who knows what the fuck that thing is supposed to symbolize in my fog of inebriation. Perhaps I should just go inside, warm up, talk about Suicidal Tendencies and wait for Mouthus to start up.

Mouthus enjoy -- Fun, frolick, long walks on the beach, Iron
Maiden, the new wave era of Blitz and sitting on snow drifts.

The other night Pete Nolan called Mouthus ‘The saddest cavemen in the radiator’ and I will gladly nick that line from him. The dilapidating duo have really been coming into their own in the past six months, finding newer, even stronger legs to hoist their concrete assault from. The no-wave spasms that seemed their trademark for awhile have opened up into wonderfully dark closets of mirrored mystery. All Java drones and metallic overload covered in paper lace wrapped boulders. Their upcoming LP on the Troubleman imprint will tell the best story so far from these hair farmers. Recent live performances have been some real intense purging and tonight is no exception. (Man, the clichés flow like water ‘round here, no?) Once Nate drops the gruesome thud down, ominous black sludge chants ring out into the air. It’s almost as if they were hanging there by some strange force of false nature. But let me clarify this ain’t no dumbo metal drone dirge nor a brainless noise barrage. There’s something sorta religious in what they emit. And just when I think that, I look around to see the majority of the crowd with their heads down and eyes open, almost like they’re in prayer mode. And then out of the corner of my eye I see the fore mentioned bunny reappear. But he holds his head up high. Of course he would, he’s a bunny for Christ’s sake. Mouthus’ throb skids to a stop, rises to the ceiling and hangs there. Claps all around. Double Leopards know they gotta tough act to follow, so they go out and roll a number to figger out their plan of attack. Will I join them? Oh, but of course!

Now, what kind of praise can I heap on Double Leopards that hasn’t already been heaped on them by journalistic types with more qualifications and Euro improv records than I? Well, I will say they have taken the temporary absence of member Marcia Bassett in great stride the past few months. It’s almost as if Marcia was the mom of the band and the rest of the members (Maya Miller, Chris Gray and Mike Bernstein) have treated her U.K. veh-k as the equivalent of a weekend alone with car keys and an empty house. Their jams still hold their meditative purposes, but they seem more abrasive and contemptuous as of lately. The set they turned in last night in Brooklyn was sorta phenomenal. A constantly enveloping roar that was turning my already tweaked head into gray lunchmeat. So, tonight I will watch them through the huge plate glass windows that surround (and I assume support) the building outside and treat the act as some sorta mental condom. Their warbling starts quick and fast. From my outside advantage, it sounds like the bubbling bellow can hardly be contained in the performance space. But I am out here in Gentle Ben territory enjoying it at a safe volume while Coley points out Lydia Lunch’s former fave make-out spots on campus. Sometimes life is so sweet and safe, I just wanna explode, y’know? And the whole time this is going on, DL never seem to ‘splode. Like a well-meaning boil or Jim Brown’s toe in ‘I’m Gonna Get You Sucka’, they pound and throb and pulsate, but never release. They simply bring the swelling down and heave their bodies off the floor. And that’s their beauty, man. A totally subtle force. A totally subtle force WITH A TUBA. Soon after their set’s complete, Chris axes me if it was loud. ‘Not as loud as last night’ I reply sheepishly. ‘Really? Everyone else said it was louder than last night’ he says in total surprise. I decide to finally confess ‘Well, I was outside for the whole thing’. He gives me the universal ‘dude’ look for ‘You Pussy’ and I feel sorta like a choad. I mean, I did watch the thing. It’s just very rare when I’m around such natural beauty and to be surrounded by that and to hear DL through a plate glass window, it sounded like a nice idea. And it was. Don’t you understand Chris? Do ya? Am I allowed back into the BBQ Chris? Is all forgiven? If not, F.U. and your tuba too. P.S.—Have a cool summer.

Double Leopards leave their mark wherever they go.

Maya + Mike (Double Leopards) dance the dance
of the perpertually joyous + chronically stoned.

The last band of the night is another Brooklyn unit, Excepter. Their flagrant exhibitionism doesn’t really jive well with what preceded them and at the end of a very long night (What is it? 2? 3?) the last thing I wanna see is Jeff Ryan with a telephone sticking out of his jacket sleeve. Any other night, any other time, right now I’m beer logged and would rather throw snowballs into the parties on campus. I nailed one frat boy who was on (at least) a fourth story balcony. Corsano was impressed. So was I. It seems my arm has held up since being a pitcher in the Babe Ruth league. I drunkenly tell C.C. my tale of how I ditched one of the final games of the season to go see The Dead Kennedys and how my dad (who was the coach of our team) didn’t talk to me for weeks. Chris seems actually interested and doesn’t treat me like I usually treat old drunks at the end of the bar. Wudda polite kid. I then notice Nate’s foot long hot dog lying in the snow. A forever haunting piece of wienerdom that thing is I tell you. I go back inside to drink any fucking beer I can get my hands on (plenty of half drunk ones in the crapper) and for some reason I don’t know, I’m still in pitching mode in my drunken state. I go up to the pool hall upstairs where Chris DL and some other blurry dudes are shooting pool. A CD wallet rests on a heater. I look through it. I’m so drunk that I can’t even tell what this stuff is. Is it good? Is it bad? Whose CD’s are these in the first place? Ah...who gives a shit. FLING! One after another go flying down the balcony into the crowd watching Excepter. I was desperately trying to nail this kid who was sorta ‘rave’ dancing. One got him in the back and he looked up. I waved at him and smiled. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever help being a total dick. I think what I need is an old fashioned ass whopping to straighten me out, but I’m not really axing for it. Anyways, the music’s over and now comes the inevitable drunken humping of amps (yes, unfortunately…just amps) into the van.

Someone says something about some sorta ‘rager’ going down either on campus or around it. Mouthus and Axolotl are gonna attend. Me and the rest of DL opt to crash with the Apostasy kids in peace and Brian Eno ambient records. Yeah, we’re wimps. We get to their secluded love cave and Chris and I force one more Pabst down out throats. We come to the logical conclusion that it's time for some rest. And now the unavoidable has to become a reality. I have
been friendly with the DL dude/dudettes for awhile now and I felt now was as good a time as any to let them know about a horrible secret I’ve been hiding from them for far too long. I HAVE A HORRIBLE FOOT ODOR PROBLEM. I mean, it’s brought grown men to tears, women to go running from bedrooms, dogs to yelp uncontrollably, etc. So the shoes come off and no one really says anything for a good while until Chris blurts out ‘Jesus, it smells like feet in here!’ ‘Uh yeah…that’s…uh…that’s me’ I say half under my breath. ‘You should try some of those charcoal joints in there, man.’ He says rather politely. Politely considering the stench his nose is under right now. But hey, we get to sleep, Chris nails me in the head with a pillow in the early hours of the morning for snoring too loud and all seems sorta right in the
world FOR NOW. It’s not until we wake the next morn that Mike and Maya realize the reek is coming from me and they are thoroughly disgusted/confused. ‘I kept smelling myself because I thought it was me’ sez Maya. Mike is just perplexed by the smell. ‘It’s not even a foot smell, man. How do you do that?’ Well, I wish I could share my talents with the pleasant smelling people of the world, but I really don’t know HOW I do it. I just chalk it up as one of the many
precious gifts God (or whoever) blessed me with and I thank him for it everyday by being a total asshole to the rest of the entire world.

A decent breakfast, a meager record store haul and one last number for the road in the Apostasy kids’ barn sends us Brooklyn bound around two p.m. the next day. I keep my shoes on and navigate/feed jams into the CD player while
Mike and Maya drift in and out of shnore city in the backseat. The first Van der Graf Generator is voted ‘too theatrical’ by the others and is taken out half way through. No respect for Hammill? What is this world coming to? ‘Give me something that rocks! No hippy jams!’ sez driver Chris. I throw in a mixed CD of J.F.A, Redd Kross, Circle One, Ten Minute Warning, etc. and it seems to keep Chris’s trap shut and his eyes on the road. The ride back is somewhat uneventful, as is my return home. But even after a shower and a very numbed out viewing of the Fox Sunday night line-up, I’m still buzzing in the fact I got to get out of the city for just one night and do it up with the crew. To blur and heighten my senses in better surroundings. To talk to peeps I don’t normally talk to on a weekly basis. To see my pals
play stellar sets. To find out the first Suicidal Tendencies demo produced by Spot is really good. (Anyone got that one on their tape trade list? Pony up Bill Wend!) To see a garage full of paper. (Thanks Aaron.) To hurl CD’s at poor unsuspecting college kids. And of course, to witness foot long wieners in all their glory.

Mouthus -- Drummer Nate looks up briefly from his drumming duties to witness the author winging a Fiery Furnaces CD off the balcony + directly at his jugular.

Mike (Double Leopards) catches up with the
bunny in question + gives him 'the business'.

Matt Krefting (Believers, Son Of Earth, Apostasy
Recordings, etc.) sez 'Don't call me shorty honky!' We comply.

(all photos by Maya Miller)