Friday, December 10, 2010

MY BOTTOM 40


Beastie Boys, Sean Lennon, Meat Loaf, Pet Shop Boys, Melissa Etheridge, Earth Crisis, Live, Crass, Sinead O'Connor, Wham!, Suicidal Tendencies, The Power Station, Chumbawamba, Spandau Ballet, Guttermouth, UB40, Barbra Streisand, Mr. Big, Yoko Ono, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Diana Ross, Trixter, Tori Amos, Shelter, Naked Eyes, Jackson 5, Goldfinger, Harry Connick Jr., The Blow Monkeys, Body Count, Simply Red, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, The Slits, Bette Midler, Deicide, Barry Manilow, Megadeth, Michael Bolton, Blues Traveler, The Style Council

He knows if you've been bad or no good...

These days, every male or female or in-between with an opinion is making a list. VH-1, John Cusack, MTV, Josh Rutledge, Rolling Stone, Lovie Decker, among others will leave theirs next to the milk and cookies for Santa's double-check. Will the jolly-bearded one agree with your selections and deposit the Nuggets box set in a large name-plated stocking? Or will a disgusted St. Nick withdraw himself upwards through the chimney and leave behind a polished glass, an empty plate, and a crumbled-up wad of paper? At the risk of having myself a lousy little Christmas, I present an unwanted gift roll call.

Let me start from the "top" and work my way "down." Those rhymin'-and-stealin' hypocrites who call themselves the Beastie Boys have been least-favorites of mine since the early '90s. When I first heard about Mike D's license to kill a horse named Paul Revere that wouldn't sleep 'til Brooklyn, my thoughts concerning these vanilla jokers were, "They're here today, they'll be gone tomorrow." Despite rumors of their death shortly after the debut LP (if only they had been true...), the Beasties went to #1, toured with Run DMC, released disasterpieces like Paul's Boutique and Check Your Head, and planted seeds that would germinate like dandelions in the future generation's mind. Indeed, you could make a sub-list of "Forty Horrible Acts The Beastie Boys Are Responsible For": Vanilla Ice, 3rd Bass, Snow, Kid Rock, Rage Against The Machine, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Eminem, Papa Roach, P.O.D. (Pile Of Dung), and so on and so forth. If you've been in a car of someone who listens to an X-station, didn't you notice how "Fight For Your Rights" or "Brass Monkey" was played in regular rotation with "Cowboy" or "Freak On A Leash"? X-programmers (and listeners, for that matter) lovingly treat the Beasties the same way classic-rock types fawn over Led Zeppelin and "Stairway To Heaven," "Black Dog," etc. Popularity creates the need to become "issue-conscious" (AKA -- "Selling the idea to your adoring public that you give a shit about them and their concerns"). During a concert with "multi-platinum techno superstars" Prodigy, one of the Beastie Boys asked the singer if he would refrain from performing "Smack Your Bitch Up" (a huge club hit at the time), out of respect for the females in attendance. If I remember the story correctly, Prodigy's frontman had verbally honored the Beastie Boy's request, but played the song in an accentuated fashion come stage time (just like Jim Morrison on TV!). Guess Ad-Rock, MCA, and Mike D. were so preoccupied with their support act "objectifying women," the trio forgot that they themselves had once sung, "Girls/They do the dishes/They do the laundry/They clean up my room..." Tongue-in-cheek, you say? Who's to say that "Smack..." wasn't also? Moreover, if the Beastie Boys weren't incessantly trying to "Free Tibet and Your Bumper Sticker Will Follow After You Give Five Dollars to the Merch Guy," they'd instantly remember one of the most important tenets of creative expression. That's freedom of speech... NOT freedom of speech -- just watch what you say (I'll get to Ice-T later).

A man who greatly championed that freedom is 50% guilty for having a son. This son's music (if you can call it that) can be obtained through the Beasties' Grand Royal imprint. This son did a duet with "Evil Metal Dude from Sepultura Turned Korn Klone" Max Cavalera. This son likes Japanese hardcore. This son's name is not Julian. Though he'll never make a lasting impression on music with his electronic clap-trap, Sean Lennon will be remembered for being the "Beautiful Boy" Papa John described to us in song. Sean's father gave the child his surname and guaranteed riches, but mommy Yoko Ono fed her youngling pint after pint of avant-garde breast milk. Ever seen footage of The Beatles laying down tracks in the studio with a stern-faced Yoko sitting next to her husband, creating as much of a loose atmosphere as a Rosa Parks sit-in? How about video from that Madison Square Garden debacle, where Ono screamed like a banshee not named Siouxsie Sioux? Admirers like the millionaire Thurston "Howell" Moore and his wife Kim "Lovey-Dovey" Gordon may find Yoko to be a nice fit in the pretentiously poetic Soho subculture. Detractors, on the other hand, maintain that: 1)Yoko Ono is the female Frank Zappa, 2)Frank Zappa hated The Beatles, and 3)YOKO ONO BROKE UP THE BEATLES. Like mother, like son, like honorary brothers Beasties -- who says hate is not a family value? On my end, it's most definitely one.

Thumbnail Sketches Of Other Grueltide Carolers:

Barbra Streisand -- Just as famous for her nose and difficulty as for "A Star Is Born," "Yentl," and bouquets of invisible flowers. Streisand's plea to elect Tipper Gore's favorite protruding-pants wearer and the connection to Rosie O'Donnell in general solidifies that "She don't rock."

Harry Connick Jr. -- White person: "Yeah, I like a little jazz..."

Diana Ross -- Tried to revive a faux representation of her girl group and felt the need to charge $300 a ticket. Yo freak: my mom NEVER owned any of your records, and whenever I hear the word "Supremes," I think of two large pizzas w/everything on them.

Chumbawamba -- They're anarchists. They're anti-Christs. They're the Spice Pistols.

Sinead O'Connor -- Never met a man named Dinka, but Sinead has. She'd show me his picture, tear it up, and declare him to be "The Real Enemy." I do not want what Kris Kristofferson got; specifically, a hug from this woman.

Body Count -- Killing cops notwithstanding, capital punishment is due for "The Winner Loses" (the only ballad in history with these lyrics: "My friend's addicted/To cocaine"), in which Ice-T TRIES TO SING! Similar offense with "Hey Joe."

Suicidal Tendencies -- Delayed my entry into "punk rock" by 2.5-3 years, because I thought it all smelled of this horseshit. Along with The Dead Milkmen and Agent Orange (who are fresh-baked cookies, in comparison), the "punk rock" band for people who don't really like "punk rock."

Jackson 5 -- O.B.B. (Original Boy Band).

Cherry Poppin' Daddies -- Past tense of "swing" is "swung."

Earth Crisis -- From VIER #1: "If you get Roadrunner's release of our Breed The Killers CD and look in the tray under the disc, you'll find a five-paragraph essay on what we stand for...In the summer we toured with the Misfits. They were super nice. We lifted weights together. Me and Jerry Only did get to see the Star Wars movie one day. That was cool."

Barry Manilow -- Whatever "it" is that Ricky Martin does, this guy says he did "it" first.

Melissa Etheridge -- Life partner Julie took another piece of her heart. Now who will help raise the David Crosby sperm-banked baby?

Blues Traveler -- I mean, what the fuck does John Goodman have to be blue about? That the FOX ran out of bad TV-show ideas?

Trixter -- From Jersey. The N'Sync of hair-metal.

The Slits -- Ask the staff of Championship Vinyl. Their album will look great on the wall.

Spandau Ballet, The Blow Monkeys, Simply Red, The Style Council -- Soul music without any.

Shelter -- From VIER #2: "It's the translation of a Sanskrit word. Shelter is where you go when times in your life get rough. Instead of seeking shelter in the material world, it's looking to the spiritual sense of shelter. For the band, it's like in India where most students live in an ashram for four or five years. Some stay and become monks. Some of them move out, get married, or grow up. The band has moved out of the temple and has become more personal..."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

MOULDY FRESH

3/26/06:
Lovie wasn't seated at her usual stool adjacent to the bakery counter. Mary -- creator of unusual cakes and muffins at Farm Fresh for over a decade -- didn't have the faintest idea of my girl's whereabouts. Too bad, because Lovie was going to miss out on an intimate performance from Bob Mould -- whose surname sits like a tainted loaf, but the music from him is always hot outta the oven. The first time I spun Flip Your Wig in her presence, she commented on Mould's guitar prowess being more impressive than Eddie Van Halen's. Well, Lovie wouldn't be seeing any eruptions at The Jewish Mother with me. Maybe she'd met "Dirty Bill" in the parking lot at C&M Cafeteria, since he was no longer permitted to visit any Farm Fresh in the Tidewater area. Before the banishment, Bill got his daily sustenance from heaping servings of salad, endless packets of crackers, cheese samples and bottomless cups of coffee dumped into a faded container from WaWa. Once his fat ass was filled to the brim, he helped himself to a handful of Virginia Lottery golf pencils. Bill needed no well-wishing from Lady Luck, for he struck the Pick 6 every time at the Fresh. His scamming ways were finally sent out the door, when a manager caught him in the act of loading up on lettuce without paying. Reluctantly, DB left, but not without an extended tirade about the coffee always being cold. Several weeks later, Lovie invited the grungy guy to the Golden Corral. Bill somewhat enjoyed the spread, but he was more intent on filling Ziploc bags with chicken, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables and chocolate pudding for his bed-ridden wife and stuffing them into his coat pockets. Lovie and many other patrons were in fits of laughter, but another dining companion of hers exclaimed, "NEVER AGAIN!" Bill has since relocated to South Bend, Indiana, but I wouldn't put it past him to attempt an exchange of 39-cent crumbly bread for football tickets. Next time, head east to Philadelphia. Temple U trades luxury boxes for stale Sunbeam.

As my sister Shannon and I seated ourselves at a prime Jew Mom table, Florida was taming the Villanova Wildcats' NCAA round-ball run. Earlier in the day, the darlings of George Mason had pulled off a shocker against the mighty Connecticut Huskies. Would tonight's opening act also write one for the history books? Already on stage intoning his "Check 1-2s," Mould readied his guitars and mic for game time. But first, the Indigo Boys had to dribble. OK, I didn't actually know the gentlemen's names or the band of whom they were a regular part. However, since one of the Girls from Georgia had worn a Husker Du tee for an Indigo album shoot, the handle became theirs by default. Armed with acoustic guitars, the 'Boys strummed a mixture of original compositions and classic rock stand-bys. Nothing too worthy of bootlegging, but at least they weren't the guy on the stairs at Animal House or your friend who has difficulty peeling "Blister In The Sun" without twenty do-overs. Plus, it was adequate background noise for sucking down 3-dollar Tecates in 16-ounce cans. The Indigo Boys might wanna refine their between-song chatter, though. During one lull, the man playing the part of Amy Ray mispronounced Mould's name, whined incessantly about how the vocalist from Tool was his favorite in all of rock 'n' roll, and revealed plans on infiltrating the Christian rock scene. What had been closer to fine was now putting the fear in this kid. Two technicals and an ejection for you, Amy.

Clearing the court of IB's perspiration, Mould poured his initial glass of drawn H20 from a bucket in the "Wishing Well." If Lady Luck was responsible for the selection, then I'd like to kiss her. But why did you neglect the "Sunspots" intro that begins page one of the punk-gone-folk Workbook?Nonetheless, LL and Bob's magic wands waved a bare-bones approach on two other chapters. "See A Little Light" shone brilliantly in spite of its not-so-cheery lyricism, while "Sinners And Their Repentances" sung like a dirge for the drunkards in attendance. The bitter aftertaste called for something sweet, so Bob dipped into "Hoover Dam" and "Needle Hits E" from the Sugar bag. Martin Popoff once referred to Mould's follow-up band as "Husker Two." Indeed, the abrasive pop (Buzzcocks/Burma colliding with Beatles/Who?), masterful songwriting and intense instrumentation that'd been Hu Du's hallmark greeted first-time listeners of Sugar in a slightly-saccharine form. However, nothing beats the original cane. Unlike his Beaster stop at The Boathouse in Norfolk many moons ago, Bob had had "No Reservations" about "Hardly Getting Over It." The two Warner Bros.-era gems had just the right amount of dust on them, as one enthusiastic sort to our left mouthed along to every familiar word and note. If there'd been a ribbon awarded to the biggest Mould fan at The Jewish Mother, the bespectacled dude standing up front would've been blue. A Tecate toast to you, man. Perhaps drawing on an angle from his days as a writer for World Championship Wrestling, Bob switched from acoustic to electric guitar on "Days Of Rain" in mid-song. For a portion of the piece, he sang a cappella whilst having problems swapping axes. The crowd loved every odd second of it, of course. Mould remained amped for the set's duration and immediately launched into "Circles" and "Paralyzed" from the recent Body Of Song album. "The Act We Act," "Your Favorite Thing" and "If I Can't Change Your Mind" sprinkled more Sugar at the masses craving another taste. "I Apologize," "Celebrated Summer" and "Makes No Sense At All" ripped through Husker Du's SST catalog. No longer the portly guy from the Zen Arcade portrait, Bob was looking fit and drank water instead of brew. Asking about a good gym, the status of The Boathouse (closed) and other good venues in the area, he was unusually engaging. All told, a fine night at the Jew Mom. Some quibbles: A full-band arrangement would've sent the performance into the stratosphere. Bells were sorely missed on "High Fidelity," and the absence of a cello on "Sinners And Their Repentances" was mourned. I know Mould hasn't worked well with bass players, but even a little thumpin' accompaniment from an Indigo Boy could've given him a prop to drown out. Most importantly, the lack of a drummer stood out on the Du and Sugar tunes. Whether it's Grant Hart, Malcolm Travis, Brendan Canty or Doktor Avalanche, hit 'em with rhythm next time 'round.

Post-performance, I shook Bob's hand and spoke to him for around 45 seconds. He kindly autographed my copies of Metal Circus, Copper Blue and The Last Dog And Pony Show as I talked his ear off about the Buzzcocks and Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill (next tour stop). Mould said he'd caught the 'Cocks ' show in D.C. and thought the drummer sucked. Sound familiar? I almost told him that someone had accidentally brought Bob Marley CDs to get signed, but the cat held back my tongue. You jammin'? Everybody must get stoned? No bong hit for me, thanks, for I'd seen and talked with THE Bob from Minnesota I give a damn about.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Smithereens @ 29th Street Stage, Va. Beach, VA (9/1/02)

Because of Labor Day weekend's off-and-on rainfall which had flooded my street for the first time in nearly two years, the chances of seeing one of the greatest crunchy-pop bands in history had seemingly gone up Dalrymple Creek without a paddle. Luckily, Captain jOhn A. threw me a life preserver to save myself from drowning in my own tears. Sailing towards the Oceanfront aboard the USS Corolla, we found a suitable spot on 17th Street to drop anchor. Once docked, jOhn haggled with a female attendant below our rank about a military discount. She apologized about her failed recognition of us naval officers and let our ship rest for five dollars instead of ten.

Just as always, we had gotten our way. A normal complication in a typical day. Making tracks to the show's commencement, I was approached by a homeless gentleman outside of a library whose graphic lettering suggested an out-of-commission '80s arcade game from nearby Flipper McCoy's. He asked me for fifty cents; I posed two questions to him: 1)Tron or Robotron and 2)Will you tell me that your name is William Wilson? The beach bum answered both incorrectly, thus I lied to him about being crazy and mixed up myself. Another destitute soul played a mean pinball, wanting seventy-five cents for a few tilts. I held the poor old woman's hand and said to her, "Maybe I've seen your face -- a long, long time ago. Maybe I've kissed your lips. Maybe I just don't know." The fragile femme responded to my faux flirtations by telling me that she only dates womyn and how my outpouring was much too much for her. Guess I was gonna be alone at midnight. Abandoning Tracey's (the lady's name) world, jOhn and I met up with the light crowd that had gathered stage side on this gloomy Sunday. Before the deep black sky would signal time for us to look for something new, I shuffled through soft sand to the nearest beer tent. This was my third career beer on the beach proper but the first legal imbibition (one of my fondest recollections of Virginia's four-man goobernatorial race in the early-90's involves watching mi amigo Joe Newlon surf at 7 AM while taking swigs of King Cobra). Heading back to the stage's edge twenty quarters lighter (including gratuity), jOhn and I listened to some DMB-type sandal-wearer boasting how he'd downed some brewskis with the members of Cootie and the Suckchickens at Mahi Mah's earlier that afternoon. Oh yeah -- I'd once made out with Laura Branigan in a Saab outside of Rogue's parking lot in 1984. She took my self; she took my self-control. Oh oh oh... After exchanging a few more spun yarns (Did you know Pat Benatar and I had dined together at the Twysted Fish restaurant after her free concert at some huge field in Norfolk?), our thoughts were only green as the 'Reens were ready to start painting ears with smooth strokes.

The band had read my mind, as Mr. DiNizio and company led off with two formidable chunks from their best el pee (the rockin' remembrances of "Only A Memory" and "House We Used To Live In"). After a few more loud 'n' poppy forever-classic gems ("Behind The Wall Of Sleep," "Blood And Roses" and "Yesterday Girl" among them), the 'Reens turned their keys into a lower register with a trio of fine balladry ("In A Lonely Place," "Especially For You" and "Blue Period" [minus Belinda Go-Go]). Everyone up front was jumping around and singing along, including a security guard directly in front of me who was packing heat and drinking on the job. I motioned to jOhn, "Now THAT'S a fan!!!" During one of the calmer moments, the guy wanted to temporarily move from his detail and get another Bud ("Man, I need to get to the beer garden."). But there wasn't any way the guard could remove himself from a stuffed sandwich. No matter -- he continued to dance crazily and mouth with the band (unaware that his gun was in near proximity to my leg). Paying respects to a couple of influences, the 'Reens shined a lil' light on The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" (replete with cliché Bic-flickering) and Ed Sullivan's favorites The Bugs...uh...The Beatles' "Hold Me Tight." The hyperactive guard should've taken the latter number to heed, in regards to his holster. Three more songs were presented by my count ("Top Of The Pops," "Everything Changes" [the deep-track award winner of the night from God Save The Smithereens] and John Cusack's pick-to-click "A Girl Like You") before the 'Reens would celebrate Jim Babjak's birthday with microwaveable White Castle burgers from Farm Fresh. But he wasn't the only one blowing out candles. In addition to the great music, I received another gift: a guitar pick from Mr. Babjak which ricocheted off jOhn bOy onto the sand and into my hand. The twelve years in between Smithereens shows ('90 @ The Boathouse -- Norfolk) broke my personal record previously held by Otis Day and the Knights ('87 @ Seawall Festival -- Portsmouth, '98 @ Chesapeake Jubilee -- duh). But the 'Reens ain't no Oldies 95.7 act. The hard pop resonated as fresh as if it were written yesterday, girl. Pat, Jim, Dennis and Mike are the same guys that you used to know.

Oh, that security guard was actually a 48-year-old man from New Jersey (the 'Reens' home base) in town for whatever reason. His gun revealed itself to be an umbrella. He chatted us up briefly before heading off to catch Steppenwolf ten streets to the left. The sound of that idea took me away, so I looked for the adventure a Port-A-John would bring instead.

Nashville Pussy/Gaunt/Polyplush Cats @ Friar Tuck's, Norfolk, VA (4/20/98)

Mr. Biggers and I made the terrible mistake of not entering this establishment (which plays good rock 'n' roll approx. 5-6 times on an annual basis, or by default when the jam-band-loving frat boys are out of town) before 8:00 p.m. The shows I had attended there in the past didn't start collecting money at the door until 9:00 p.m. This was unfortunate, because if there's one person that's a bigger cheapskate than I, it would be Mr. Totally Useless Crap himself -- the one and only Biggers. I had to take out a loan from the man. (Who did not relish his role as a banker one bit, and probably now hates my guts and wants to sever all ties to this piece of two-year-old babyshit zine)

We finally made it inside the club, and Biggers headed straight for the bar to order a Budweiser. I haven't figured out why he always gets Bud, because our past conversations about favorite beers did not include that beverage on his list. As for myself, I made haste to a nearby booth and started to read this new local zine called Fuck The World that was on the table next to the spit-filled ashtray. Two of our friends, whom we'd seen at almost every cool show in the past, came up to us. We started yapping about the good things in life such as old Atari 2600 video games, songs by Brownsville Station that were covered by Motley Crue, the letter "M", and the show "Good Times." Ten minutes later, we heard our first live music of the night. Nashville Pussy did a sound-check and went through a test run of two songs: the instant classic "Go Motherfucker Go" and what may or may not be a song from their album Let Them Eat Pussy. I ordered that damn thing eons ago, and it still hasn't shown up in my mailbox. The Pussies were in lapping order, so they exited stage right. The sounds of Billy Joel ("Big Shot") and the Atlanta Rhythm Section (didn't know the title of the song from this band who frequently plays the Peanut Festival in Suffolk -- it was the one that goes, "I am so into you...") took our already ringing ears hostage.

Not too long afterward, the Polyplush Cats from Washington D.C. began their set and impressed with some very fine glam-rock sounds. ('70s-style a la Sweet) Crazy guitar antics and a touch of punk were also thrown in the pot. This was a nice surprise, for the Cats hadn't been listed on the show fliers, and because I had missed their Route 44 stop from a couple months back.

UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! Biggers became the new Drunk Champion of Loose Screws, taking the belt away from me. He'd doused himself with so much beer in the space of two hours, the ingested liquids could've floated that elegant piece of junk sitting in the harbor known as "The Spirit Of Norfolk." After mistaking the booth for a comfy bed and making six wrong turns to use the bathroom, Biggers wanted to leave Tuck's. With me being the responsible (gasp!) designated driver, I carted him back to the Pleasure House Rd. wing of the Loose Screws mansion. I was going to write the whole evening off, as the station formerly known as "The Fox" played..."Big Shot" by Billy Joel. Thought to myself, "Man, you can never escape that guy." However, the next band they spun in the rotation caused me to exclaim, "Unfucking believable!" It was...ATLANTA RHYTHM SECTION!!! Now, I'm not easily prone to superstition, but I interpreted that coincidental breaking away from an otherwise tepid play list as a sign to GET MY RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC ASS BACK TO FRIAR TUCK'S IN TIME TO CATCH NASHVILLE PUSSY!!!

I did make it back in time for NP but had completely missed Gaunt. Several people told me that they were nothing special (I've never heard their music), but I knew Gaunt had a new album out and were touring behind it. So, I couldn't make a call either way without hearing them.

Nashville Pussy eventually made it back to the stage they had occupied several hours before. They barnstormed through most of the songs from their already collectable 45s ("Snake Eyes," "Eat My Dust," "Johnny Hot Rod," and the aforementioned "Go Motherfucker Go" -- which contains the priceless lines: "Don't go to work, don't go to school, don't do a goddamn thing/Sit on my ass, holding that glass/Tell everyone I'm king..."), as well as a healthy batch of new album material. The highlight (for me) was when Blaine yelled, "Two-faced woman with your two-faced lies..." as the band tore into a jaw-dropping take on one of the all-time classics ("Kicked In The Teeth") from one of the all-time greats (AC/DC) off one of the all-time best albums. (Powerage) NP also did this wild, "Eruption"-style, extended instrumental replete with amazing guitar solos (Eddie who?); bang-your-head percussion; raunchy second guitar from Blaine; and the fire-breathin', whiskey-drinkin', lugie-spittin', bass-playin' fox named Corey. She went off-stage carrying a fiery stick into the crowd and blew a burst of flames at a willing gentleman's face. Suggestion: If you're cold-blooded, wear a coat next time. This was my fourth time seeing this "Motorhead with tits"-described band. Uh, I may subscribe to that notion musically, but the image of "Fast" Eddie Clarke (let alone Lemmy!) with a full set of knockers makes my insides queasy. Regardless, if you're someone who missed AC/DC, Motorhead, Ted Nugent, KISS and all the other great, guitar-god, party-hardy rock 'n' roll bands of the '70s/'80s, go see NP. That way, you can tell your kids fifteen years from now when they visit you in prison, "Shit, I saw Nashville Pussy when they were..."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"HI, WELCOME TO CICI'S!!!" (CiCi's Pizza -- Woods Corner Shopping Center, Va. Beach, VA)


I don't care who you are. Nobody is immune from an overly friendly greeting at the door's entrance. A Ronald Reagan-masked robber brandishing an automatic weapon in order to collect "dough" for a Nags Head surfing excursion would not be met with panicked resistance. Rather, the company man or woman would serve the perpetrator with a minimum-wage smile and offer fresh tens and twenties in a special to-go box before sending Bonzo off to catch tube rides at a point break of his choosing. "Thank you. Come back and see us..." In the past, I've walked inside just to hear an employee's reaction. Then I'd immediately exit upon hearing the per-usual enthusiasm. Try this test yourself. Use the restroom, ask to speak with Hobart, inquire about the steak wraps, or drop a quarter in a video game...do anything that doesn't require a food purchase. If you're not flashed with as many teeth as a face-to-face with Jimmy Carter, then that person has done time at Papa John's or Domino's and should be ratted out to the nearest manager. Complacency, like tomato sauce, is neither an ingredient for CiCi's many pies nor an adjunct found in the bylaws of the chain's personal attentiveness.

Read my lips: MY HUNGER WAS TAXING! After a Sunday afternoon of watching an En Ef El scrum between the Browns and Steelers and nibbling on crumbs from a Tostito's bag, my belly grew tired of bush-league field-goal misses and plowed its way into the end zone for six. Well, $5.70 upon further review. That, my friends, is called deceptive tacticism. The buffet price on the window, emblazoned in bold shades of red, clearly states $3.99 (up a Washington from the original "what-a-deal" charge). However, because most people like The Gee Man himself want a carbonated beverage to enjoy with their meal and can't hang with complimentary unfiltered H20 from the pisser, what had once been a bargain was now simply "cheaper than the 'Hut." Squaring my tab and acknowledging two WELCOMES, the bevy of pizzas laid before me looked scrumptious in comparison to a tortilla-chip brunch. Spinach, plain cheese, Hawaiian, pepperoni 'n' sausage, veggie, apple, cherry...I grabbed a slice of each on my initial trip. Respective comments are as follows: 1)Not too shabby but nothing like the flavor of Mom's spinach lasagna...MMM; 2)Too creamy to be rendered enjoyable; 3)Pineapples and ham would also make a fine sammich; 4)Meat is good, even when it lines a mediocre crust; 5)Don't ask; 6)Not Mrs. Smith's; 7)Not Hostess. I prolly made at least three more 1-3-4 Ickey Shuffles to the AYCE tables before passing out from (meat) exhaustion. Never had I eaten so many slices of pizza (easily well into double-digits). But when you're handed the ball, you run with it...even as an opponent amongst a partisan crowd.

Many snot-nosed brats were given free rein to run amok every which way. One unkempt tyke bumped into my leg on more than one occasion. Several other children pet-peeved me by letting their straws directly touch the liquid dispensers during drink refills. A rugrat (AND HIS MOTHER!) reloaded dirty plates with pies to the sky -- hepatitis, anyone? This trying-to-rebel-against-her-parents, Sissy Spacek-from-"Carrie"-lookin' girl incessantly (not to mention loudly) begged mommy and daddy for permission to see whatever that movie's called starring Eminem. "It has repeated uses of the F-word," dad pointed out. "No, he isn't cussing just to cuss. He's using those words to make a point," pseudo-intelligently replied the girl. "Well, the point is you're not seeing that movie," mom curtly countered, ending all debate and wrapping up the entertainment portion of the evening. "CiCi's Theater" was a good substitute for the lack of football on the big and little screens (all glued to Nickelodeon repeats). Dr. Pepper and Barq's were fine accompanying beverages, but, like the atmosphere, something more adult a la Bud or Icehouse on tap would've washed everything down more satisfyingly. Besides, the kiddies already have their own C.C.'s in the form of Chuck (E.) Cheese's. Let them be killed with kindness from a gregarious rodent; I would rather eat a piece in peace.

Until CiCi's makes concessions for over-21 diners, the desired Monastery of Mozzarella will continue on as a Daycare of Dough. I'll be Ci-Ciing you...

The Grip Weeds/The Factory Playboys @ Taphouse Grill, Norfolk, VA (10/10/02)


Though I love the selection of flavorful beers and ales available at this 21st Street haunt (Anchor Steam being a particular fave), I'm not as fond of the prices. Maybe it's due to my cheapskatedness, but no pint of provision should cost more than a super-sized meal from Carls, Jr. (the West Coast version of Hardee's, to those on the Ewe Ess's right side). Of course, the alkie liquid ingested by snobs tastes better, but this Abercrombie & Bitch 'tude towards the cheap stuff makes me puke all over the Air Jordans (spiffy with Dockers) these big spenders are afraid will get scuffed. Recently, a grab-rag from Vaaa Beeech featured an article defending the taste of Budweiser. The author, while expressing a strong affection for Bass and Rogue, illustrated how marketing and hype play a role in selective imbibition. He wrote that if Ripple were to change its name to something remotely French and decorate the bottle with scenes from a lush countryside, the beverage would be hailed as the latest nectar of the gods by those who downplay Lowenbrau as a fake import. Taking the wise man's counsel, I chose to forgo the type-A pints of brew-blood in favor of a Red Cross overstock flowing from a 72 oz. Milwaukee's Best donation. Needing a place to transfuse, I'd thought about sneaking the river of life into the Tap's bano but wanting to be a good patient got the better of me. Thus, I visited an off-duty nurse's quarters (whose own circulatory system had been low by twelve ounces). Thirty-three minutes later, we were both percolating with the spark of ultra-caffeinated Folger's crystals. Strange brew, indeed. Extending an invitation to the show, the nurse politely declined for she would have to assist in the removal of a snake-sized tapeworm formed by a deficiency of Mike's Hard Cranberry Lemonade the following day. We traded adioses and I briskly walked towards the Tap to get "The Beast" a-pumpin'.

Clotting with a handle that would be apropos for a Joy Division tribute act, The Factory Playboys swam in a red sea stocked with choice cells from the fifties/ sixties. Normally, all-covas doctors (i.e., the malpractitioners who infect the stage of Smackwater Jacks...one time was all I needed to get my three steps outta there, mister) would be met with a knife wound from yers truly, but the 'Boys administered the right medicine. Pills from Bo Diddley ("You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover"), Randy Newman ("Have You Seen My Baby?" [also done to great effect on a Big Bobby And The Nightcaps b-side, for you low-cal historians]), Chuck Berry ("I'm Talking 'Bout You"), Barry & The Remains ("Don't Look Back"), The Sonics ("Strychnine"), and Chocolate Watch Band ("Are You Gonna Be There [At The Love-In]?") went down like a post-tonsillectomy vanilla cone from Doumar's. Suggested procedures for the next check-up: Kinks ("I'm Not Like Everybody Else"), Nightcrawlers ("Little Black Egg"), Standells ("Barracuda"), and The Rolling Stones ("The Last Time"). Play those and I'll never eat apples again.

Opening their offices amidst the non-harmful bacterial strains of Cream's "I Feel Free," New Jersey's The Grip Weeds treated the sikk with old remedies which've been proven to combat the toughest illnesses for nearly forty years. Rob Thomas Stomachache (first detected in the nineties) was coated with the easy-to-swallow Byrdsy relief of "She Surrounds Me" and "Rainy Day #3." Dave Matthews Congestion (origins in South Africa, though a rash of outbreaks would later occur in Charlottesville) blocked nasal passages only temporarily, due to Who-esque percussion-heavy lozenges of "Save My Life" and "Loves Lost." Bon Jovi Eczema (traced from a barmaid in Asbury Park, NJ) itched like crazee until a gentle Zombies-like balm was rubbed in a "Moving Circle." Sometimes Marcus Welby, sometimes Timothy Leary -- The Weeds' book smarts and groovy gumption combine to make castor oil lubricate yer insides with a psyched-out sweetness. Spoon up!

PUT ME IN A WHEELCHAIR AND KEEP ME OFF THE STAGE


After I'd stopped drinking in April 1998, my desire to attend any rock 'n' roll shows considerably lessened. Not because I tired of live music from such drunk 'n' punk luminaries as The Pleasure Fuckers, Nashville Pussy, and The Candy Snatchers. Rather, I feared going into a relapse from which recovery would've been impossible.

Rewind to my rock-bottom: One Saturday morning, I awoke after sleeping off the damage from a usual kick-ass Route 44 show. My bed was the seat of a 1984 Plymouth Horizon, while my blanket was stitched with projectile vomit from threads of Jim Beam and Molson Ice. Started to remember that Bon Scott had died in his car. But he'd given the world High Voltage, Powerage, and Highway To Hell. All I contributed, by comparison, were rough demos of '74 Jailbreak. Guess "The Big Guy in the Sky," or whatever name He goes by nowadays, wasn't ready to invite me to His party to end all parties. Now there's a guest list I'm glad my name didn't appear on.

Post-Acca Dacca feelings of guilt began to override any temporary satisfaction I'd gotten from being inebriated. Thankfully, several more attempts at a quick drum lesson with Keith Moon remained unscheduled. Reading and writing replaced my main activities of drinking and driving. Until a friend of a friend showed up on my porch, three months had passed since I'd seen a live band.

Drew was a band mate of my sister's boyfriend Thomas. The first time I'd ever met him had occurred during a practice in a storage unit. Drew's playing of the guitar indicated he was no stranger to that instrument. Good pace, nice tone -- his strumming through classic punk numbers by Black Flag and the Adolescents was met with applause from Shannon and me. Past introductions, I complimented Drew on his taste and ability. We started gabbing about bands we liked/disliked, shows we'd been to, and other musical topics. This roundtable-yet-with-nowhere-to-sit discussion lasted over 90 minutes. We parted ways and exchanged phone numbers. Good deal. You can never have too many friends in this world, and I already considered Drew to be one.

Two-and-a-half weeks after that initial meeting, Drew came to my house accompanied by six other people (mostly of the teen-age set). This one curly-haired rascal was covered by a "Godweiser -- King Of Kings" T-shirt that parodied the Budweiser logo. Another female tag-along wore a Pepsi tee (except that it read "Jesus" in the circle) with a matching WWJD? (Where Was Johnny Depp?) friendship bracelet. Drew sported an old Ramones black-and-white short-sleeve, paired with a brown crucifix. Was there some sort of playful blasphemy going on here? Joey and Johnny on the cross! Hanson from "21 Jump Street" as The Almighty! Domestic lager as holy water! These seven unexpected visitors shared my warped sense of humor, and I was all too ready to befriend each and every one of them, names not necessary. Instead, these S.O.D.'s (Soldiers Of the Deity, not Stormtroopers Of Death) had come to my humble abode with serious intentions. Apparently, Thomas had filled in cool Drew and the gang about my on-again/off-again relationship with the bottle, as well as my whereabouts. Drew asked me how I'd been holding up, and I told him that things were going OK so far. The Jesus-Pepsi Miss wanted to know if I would like them to say a prayer for me. "No, I'll be alright" was my cut-to-the-chase reply. Before taking off in the church-band van, Rev. Godweiser invited me to see his band (Ma's Collision Repair) at a yet-to-be determined house of worship. "Wot the 'ell" were my thoughts; "Sure, I'd like that" were my words. Drew was running late for rehearsal, so all seven bade me good evening. Went back inside to catch the rest of the Braves game I'd been watching (before the 7th-inning stretch had become 7th-inning strange).

Ten days after the attempted S.O.D. coup on my soul, Drew and I were on our way to see Ma's Collision Repair. He'd brought his lady friend Stephanie along for the ride. She was a nice girl, though somewhat spaced-out. The three of us talked about novelty license plates. I mentioned how one day I'd like to have my car tags read “G8544.” Drew quickly rebutted my wish, by stating how plates with the letter "G" followed by four numbers were reserved for the handicapped. "No, handicapped tags are novelties in and of themselves," was my counter-reply. Just at that moment, a Ford Escort passed by Drew's car in the left lane. License-plate number -- PAPA WC (with the wheelchair icon in front of the inscription). I laughed uncontrollably, Drew mildly chuckled, and Stephanie sat by her beau with a blank "Huh?" expression. Her usual look, in other words. We entered the church parking lot, as I observed how many spaces were taken. Damn near every one of them. Besides Ma's Collision Repair, Elder and Squad 5-0 were also on the bill. "That'll be ten dollars," said the doorman. Not a bad price for three people, right? "Uh, that's ten from each of you," stumbled His Collection Agent. Unbelievable! I had seen Our Heavenly Fathers (the Ramones) for $9.00, ogled the Sweet Daughters of Eve (The Muffs) for $8.00, and shaken the blessed hand of an assistant to His Absolute Holiness (Scott Asheton, ex-drummer of [Iggy And] The Stooges) for free, prior to this forced offering.

With a scowl, I forked over two five-dollar bills and began to soak up the atmosphere. This concert hall was most certainly a religious setting. Lots of crosses, pictures of biblical scenes, and quotes from "The Good Book" decorated the walls. Though "the kids" around me presented themselves like many a Manic Panic casualty I had run into at past secular shows, their shirts and jackets were adorned with patches of unfamiliar-to-my-ears-and-eyes bands (MXPX, Supertones, The Dingees, The '77s, The Blamed, etc.).

Like "Godweiser" and "Jesus Pepsi," He and His Son's names also found their way onto tees depicting Visa credit cards and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Another youngster flashed a more general slogan --"Jesus Died 4 U." Who did this Jesus H. Christ think he was? The Artist Who Wished He Were Prince? After a pre-show prayer involving both the performers and attendees (my eyes remained open), Elder struck their opening chords. You know how some bands sound like Pearl Jam, while others sound like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam? Well, Elder furthered the category by sounding like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam who sound like the bands who sound like Pearl Jam. Confused? See, Creed. The final one-third of their set was spoken-word concerning God and stuff. Then they were finished.

Wandering around the place was a three-foot-tall man with a gregarious manner. He looked strangely familiar. If you're a "Baywatch" fan, you may recall an episode that featured a character named Simon, who tried to re-establish ties with his son. In one scene, the boy asked Matt (whom he looked up to), "Why did my dad have to be a dwarf?" Didn't confirm whether or not the happy little man was Simon. Too bad, cause I had a million questions for him.

The next act, Squad 5-0, actually shone under the restrictive conditions. Judging by the tape Drew had played earlier and their live set, the Squad echoed the U.K. Subs with ska leanings. Final song was a M.C. Hammer/Vanilla Ice medley, where the vocalist sang about something "that makes me hard." Quickly, a Tim Robertson-like (Pat's son), finger-pointing member of the church ("No, no, no") scolded the band for use of suggestive lyric. Good performance from Squad 5-0, who'd made me question their "religiousosity." Could they've duped the naive Christian fan base with their thoughts and feelings? If so, kudos! To paraphrase Hannibal: "I love it when a sham comes together."

Headliners Ma's Collision Repair sang and skanked for a shade under half-an-hour. Then came the most bizarre appeal I'd ever seen/heard a band make. During the final phase of their set, Ma's Collision Repair underwent a transformation from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones to The Mighty Clouds Of Joy. Instead of their usual happy-go-lucky ska-punk sounds, MCR employed a choral stance with bits of brushwork drumming. Each member took a turn "praising Him," then asked people in the crowd who were not yet saved to come up onstage and share in the glory. Now, I may have accidentally gotten saved when forced to attend Sunday school during my pre-teen years (my brother Mike "accepted J.C." over fifty times -- his way of getting out of the classroom), but I'll be damned if some two-bit local ska act with a single-digit number of shows under their belt thinks they have the power to influence my beliefs/non-beliefs of a supreme being.

The only band whom I would “surrender to Jesus" for is Husker Du, because (as any fan will tell you) it would truly take "an act of God" to bring Mr. Mould, Mr. Hart, and Mr. Norton together again. If that reunion ever happens, I'll be the first to shout, "Praise be unto Him!" Until then, there will be no right way for me to eat a Jesus Peanut Butter Cup.

BULLWHIPPED


Doesn't every town in the United States have one? I'm talking about a "morning zoo" irritation whose on-air persona is strewn with innuendos and calculated political incorrectness. Once the shock-jock's shift is finished, however, he retreats into an abyss of junk food and prescription drugs. The station's sizable ratings (thanks to a large population of ball-scratchers who couldn't get laid by a crack-addicted he/she on Jefferson Avenue) are only matched by the boisterous DJ's gut. During feel-good simulcasts such as a "living flag" representation to support our country's efforts in the Persian Gulf, "Mr. America" has a smile and handshake for each personified stitch of the Stars & Stripes. However, at less-hyped remotes like a broadcast from some new dealership, the AOR company's point-man bluntly answers a birthday well-wisher with, "Yeah, whatever." Occasionally, though, you'll find enough rope to leave the DJ hanging.

Approximately twelve years ago, Rack 'N' Sack (Farm Fresh's answer to Be-Lo Markets) opened a new store on Kempsville Road. Many booths were set up for free samples. Snack Wells, Bagel Bites, Coca-Cola, Oreo, Tombstone, Oscar Mayer -- no need to drop coin on lunch at the nearby McD's, because super-sized meals were for the taking inside this new grocery. Making laps around the 'Sack, I spotted "The Bull" hunkered in the pits between a Krispy Kreme display and the ATM. He was clutching a stack of FM-99 WNOR stickers (the very ones "listeners" had manipulated to read "MF-69 WOR" on their vehicles) and looking uncomfortable. Did "The Bull's" public turn out in droves to exchange one-liners with the man who'd brought humor into their miserable existences? Not exactly. Sure, a crowd of potential FM-99 types had gathered throughout the aisles of Rack 'N' Sack. But the throngs busied themselves with their wives and kids' free eats in lieu of trading war jokes with the now-sullen radio personality. Upstaging "The Bull" at this stop was a rotund 'n' smiling favorite from childhood...Kool-Aid Man!!! No less than 30 people were constantly at his liquid stand, drinking the flavored sugar-water and shouting "OH, YEAH!" at the walking pitcher. Enjoying a glass-o'-grape, I wanted to join the cheering section (HEY, KOOL-AID -- WYLER'S SUCKS!!!), but someone pointed me in the direction of bite-sized imported sausages from Vienna. Perhaps I should've thrown some non-potato chips at "The Bull" (HEY, BULL -- YOUR PLAY LIST IS SHIT!!!). No matter, since Kool-Aid Man had broken him in the head-to-head at Rack 'N' Sack by capturing FM-99's demographic, it wouldn't be long until "The Bull" was put out to pasture.

Turn the dial to seven or eight years later. I was at my favorite music store shooting pool with its then-co-owner Jeff. Both of us enjoyed several runs of four and five pocketed balls. Jeff asked me if I wanted to be in an 8-ball league with him. "I'll think about it," was my shaky response. As Jeff was setting up the ninth rack, "The Bull" walked in with several boxes of albums. I'm no estimator, but I didn't see much in the way of resale value placed on the counter. Maybe Jack Tripper would've gladly paid $50 for a Pablo Cruise 12" adorned with Peaches' Records & Tapes stickers. Perhaps Paul Hogan could've been persuaded for a cut of "Crocodile Dundee" residuals in bartering Men At Work's Business As Usual (draped in the center by a "Things Go Better With Coke And K-94" label). Amazingly, Jeff was able to find a few worthy items in the stock. He wound up giving "The Bull" forty or fifty dollars for the accepted long-kept freebie promos. I'm sure Jeff's action was charitable, for the DJ had been de-reined from his long-standing plum gig at FM-99 and was doing graveyard or worse at an AA (Adult Alternative) outlet. Bills in pocket, he said muchas gracias to the payer and headed to his Explorer. Five minutes later, "The Bull" reentered the stable to ask Jeff for a jump. His truck wouldn't start. I was in command of overseeing the store until Jeff returned from charging "The Bull's" battery. Alone inside, I counted the words that had been shared between myself and a local celebrity. Zero.

Gunther, you should have been nicer to a man down on his luck. He'd given so much to the community at large. He'd locked himself in a cage for over three days to raise money for the SPCA. He'd brought "bombs bursting in air" patriotism to sympathizers at Mount Trashmore. He'd gone to a Ramones concert on his own dime.


Yeah, whatever.

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME REAL FOOD?


Everyone has been in a situation where his or her loose stomach suddenly becomes tied in a triple-sheepshank knot. You know the deal: a spouse or other companion invites you to share a meal with a relative of theirs. Though his or her intentions are usually good, unappetizing gruel such as haggis with blood sausage and pickled ram's testicles can cause irreparable damage to culinary taste buds...not to mention your relationship.

In 1983, my mother was involved with a gentleman named Larry -- who acted more like a glorified babysitter than a "dad" (excepting the time he became the only "father figure" to ever paddle my ass). One Sunday morning, the usual routine of waiting for the church bus was suspended. This was because Larry's mom -- a 24-hours-a-day-in-her-pajamas-type woman -- wanted her most intelligent son (7th-grade education -- no lie!) to bring his ready-made "family" over for breakfast. My siblings and I welcomed the change of plans, readying ourselves for some seriously good eats. After a 25-minute drive fighting with my brothers and sisters over an electronic hand-held Space Invaders-like game, we arrived at the "All-You-Can-Eat."

The house, located less than two miles from my mother's old high school, was a sprawling, two-story structure with a well-tended garden that was most assuring for first-time guests. Once inside, however, Mr. Miracle Grow's dream became Martha Stewart's living hell. Aside from the clothes piles and garbage tucked in every nook and cranny, the first things I noticed were the many televisions scattered throughout the place. Numbering about thirty, they occupied every bedroom, both bathrooms, the garage, den, etc. There were even a couple of non-working sets in the upstairs hallway that served as tables. The most impressive of all the boob tubes was situated in the family room. A three-panel stack of TVs, each had an important function. Top set was where the antenna stood, middle layer brought you the picture, and the bottom TV delivered not-so-crystal-clear sound. An early version of the home entertainment center, perhaps? Don't laugh. The triple-headed monster was equipped with full cable (including HBO). All of us were heartily introduced to Larry's mom and his six brothers. Dig this lineup: Lloyd, Leslie, Lonnie, Leon, Lynn, and Lance. No L-monogrammatic (as in Laverne) sweaters for this bunch. Eyeballing an old western ("Gunsmoke") on the triple-stack, we five hungry steers were corralled into the kitchen to chow down.

As I stared at the plate, my thoughts began to mirror those closest to me. We all gave the grub a "What the hell is this crap?" look. The main course, you ask? Eggs and salmon. Not just any ole egg 'n' salmon platter, it was the kind where chicken embryos are unstable and "catches of the day" would be thrown back by any sensible fisherman. To make matters worse, my least favorite foods at the time were (in order): 1)eggs, 2)fish, and 3)watermelon. Sensing tension across the crowded table, my mother (aware of the foods I most disliked) flashed me a look of great concern, motioning as if to say, "Try to get through it, son." Beaver Cleaver'd had it easy with those brussels sprouts, and the longer I sat paralyzed with fear, the more jealous I became of his predicament. Trying to stall consumption by devouring slices of buttered toast (the only edible item on the table), I waited and waited for my chance to abort such a lousy surf 'n' turf expedition. Fifteen minutes later, I finally caught a wave that would set me ashore. Besides the L-to-the-sixth-power exponential relations, Larry also had three sisters (Robin, Tina, and Rachel). The youngest one, Rachel, was a temperamental child who spoke in a whiny manner. On this day, she rewarded me with, "Mama, I'm not hungry. I wanna go to parrrk..." The pajama-clad pushover implored her youngest son, "Oh Lance, please take Rachel to the park." "Not now Ma, I'm eatin'," replied the idiot, wasting his get-out-of-jail-free card. "MAMA!!! I'M NOT HUNGRY!!! I WANNA GO TO PARRRK!!!" bellowed Rachel to 135-decibel effect. Although it was not my familial duty, I "kindly volunteered" to escort the hot-headed little one to the swings and sliding boards. Mama nodded in approval, and the two of us were soon in the sandbox creating sculptures. Dirt never tasted so good!

Less than a year later, my mother would meet the man that I've been proud to call my father for the past sixteen years. Our worries have been few. He doesn't like his mother's cooking. Or his mother.

The Glory Hounds @ Hoopla's - Northampton Blvd., Va. Beach, VA (12/7/02)

Figuring my bud Mike Keels hadn't seen a live rock 'n' roll show in quite some time, I decided to C-A-L-L A-T-T the man. Though he ain't the easiest person in the world to reach normally, Mike answered el telefono with a mouthful of Chicago deep-dish from the 'Hut. To be frank, Keels wasn't too jazzed about venturing out on this cooler-than-a-Paul Davis-song night. He'd felt more right keeping his breadsticks warm by the firelight, until I mentioned something about a Pagans cee dee (I'd burned him a copy of Everybody Hates You) and pool tables. At that point, Mike was ready for a $6.25 (the price of five games of 8-ball...damn the introduction of that fifth quarter-slot) love affair on the street where nobody lives. Once inside Hoopla's, he ordered the first of several Bass ales (not as robust as the ones he'd polished off during his stay in England, Mike would later comment). As for me, Pabst Blue Ribbon was nice at a $1.00 price...even nicer, considering Keels picked up my tab. Muchas gracias, Miguel! In between shooting stick, we noticed the fliers for upcoming performers. Molly Hatchet (all original members axed long ago) was a $20 ticket, Blue Oyster Cult (don't know what's left in their shell) wanted forty smackers, and Edgar Winter (friend of George Hamilton's) gave free rides upon payment of the service charge. Keels, a huge street-punk/Oi! fan, was shocked to learn that Splodgenessabounds ("Two pints of lager and a packet of BLOODY CRISPS," for those in the know) had been scheduled to play here back in September. Too bad for the cancellation, because "Wiffy Woman" (set to the tune of that Orbison classic) would've induced laughing and/or fighting. On this Saturday night, the best friends were found at the bottom of the glass.

The Glory Hounds gave us no aggravation, getting their action in on many cuts from the pop-rock gem Sex-A-GoGo. "Sorry" didn't need to say as much for its Cheap Tricks not taken for granted. "Porn Star" had boob-job lyrics ("She isn't easy/But she makes me hard") lifted from similar XXX-screen sirens Lit (whose Atomic el pee has also "got it and that's a fact"). "Baby Please" begged sweetly with T-Rexesque bended knee. "Spinnin' Round" was a Zander-ful waste of time and loss of mind at 33 RPM. Among the newer tracks, "One Night Stand" and "Come On" were most Marvelous (3) crankin' from the (American) Hi-Fi. Adding wacky throw pillows to the velour sofa, the 'Hounds furnished their upholstery with tips from noted decorators Generation X ("Dancing With Myself"), The Cars ("Just What I Needed"), David Bowie ("Rebel Rebel"), Buddy Holly ("Oh Boy"), The Sweet ("Ballroom Blitz"), and Bryan Adams ("Summer Of '69").

At the triple-set's conclusion, Mike asked Brian (singer/guitarist) about equipment and I wondered if he thought "Your Love" by The Outfield was a great pop song. Answers: 1)Six-string that I bought at the five-and-dime and 2)Yes, but I can't sing it with such a high-pitched vocal.

Aerosmith/Motley Crue @ Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Va. Beach, VA (10-21-06)



Original plans for this Saturday:
1)Spend time with my girlfriend, 2)Play tennis, 3)Watch the Tigers and
Cardinals square off in the World Series, and 4)Stay sober. Due to Lovie's
aching tooth and a sore elbow, I would have to settle for Joe Buck's
play-by-play and an imaginary bottle of O'Douls. However, a phone call from
"Black Bart" ixnayed the baseball. He had procured two tickets for the
nearly sold-out show and invited me and my sister Shannon to join him. Our
acceptance of the generous offer came less than an hour before the opening
licks, so we had to torch tread quicker than Dale Jr. The drive from Suffolk
was surprisingly short, and Virginia Beach's finest kept the entrance line
moving steadily. Once inside the gates, Bart was perched by the
lost-and-found section. Handing us our passes, BB still had to conduct other
business. Spotting two lasses from either the amicable country of Sweden or
the tulip-laden land of Holland, he pitched two good seats for a
mildly-inflated price of $250. The attractive blondes turned him down, of
course, but Ridgemont High's Damone and Larry from "Three's Company"
would've been proud of Bart. Oddly, this was our last face-to-face with the
shyster. Perhaps BB had to meet a curly-haired youth at Lynnhaven Mall
burnin' for Blue Oyster Cult tickets. Let's give the devil his due.

Speaking of the forked one, the Crue had already begun shouting at him
during our mile-long hike up the steps to the lawn area. By the time we
found a great spot on the lawn's edge closely behind the party tent, Vince
and company had kicked ass on "Wild Side" and drooled over "Looks That
Kill". Twin scorchers from Dr. Feelgood, "Kickstart My Heart" and "Same Ol'
Situation (S.O.S.)", sent me back to the 1989 grit lunch table at Bayside
High School. KISS-y pyrotechnics induced more time-traveling on "Louder Than
Hell." If I'm not mistaken, my brother Brian's first musical purchase was
Theater Of Pain -- which I spun constantly throughout the terrible year that
was 1986. Another act from the comic/tragic platter, "Home Sweet Home",
brought out appreciative cell phones and cigarette lighters. Personally, I
would've fired one up in the restroom at Brownsville Station and lamented
the "City Boy Blues," but it ain't like I threw tomatoes at 'em. Mick Mars'
sliding guitar unleashed a "Primal Scream" from the Decade Of Decadence,
which garnered extra hollers upon my subsequent discovery of his
degenerative bone condition. A make-out session with "Josie" and an Orange
chopper ridden onto the stage by Vince were perfect props for "Girls, Girls,
Girls." In my ninth-grade Spanish class at Churchland High School, the
students had to give a presentation on a favorite album of theirs. Troy
Liverman's pick was Chicas, Chicas, Chicas. A muy bien set, overall. But
leave it to Tommy Lee and tastelessness. Pandering to the white-trash rapper
crowd who actually owned the Methods Of Mayhem waste of plastic, the wannabe
MC led a "When I say Motley, you say Crue" call-and-response to the delight
of most. Even unlimited Jager shots wouldn't have made me join that choir.
Good night, fucker.

Dusting off the "Toys In The Attic" and briskly "Walkin' The Dog", the Toxic
Twins only hinted at the technical brilliance and bluesy comfortableness yet
to come. With apologies to Van Morrison, Bon Scott, and Terrible Ted, a
stripped-down "Baby Please Don't Go" was, by far, the definitive one I'd
ever heard. The juke-joint feel made me wish they'd summoned other standards
like "Train Kept A Rollin'" and "Milk Cow Blues" in lieu of the teeny-bopper
sing-alongs "Cryin'" and "Eat The Rich." Still, the sight of Steven Tyler
captivating 20,000 folks by simply blowing on a harp scored a "Big One" for
the old guard. "Devil's Got A New Disguise," the lone newbie, didn't mask
the Beantown Boys' winning song-and-dance routine. Eight years ago, I
compiled my favorite Aerosmith songs on a mixed tape for Lovie. "Dream On"
did not make the list. Tonight, singing through the laughter and tears with
our new pal "Drunk Dan" took us away. Deep cuts such as the riff-rockin'
"Draw The Line" and a slowly-changing "Seasons Of Wither" partnered well
with the DMC-less "Walk This Way" and an expressive "Sweet Emotion."
Standing near the front but not shaking his ass, Dan struggled to maintain
balance after umpteen cups of nine-dollar Miller High Life. After a third
and final tumble, he invited us to his place for beers and darts. The only
thing Dan would be throwing was up, so his wife wisely nixed the idea. Never
got the man's digits or address, but the not-played (WTF?) "Back In The
Saddle" is hereby dedicated to him. People like Dan are just as important in
recollecting memorable moments as those on the right side of the velvet
rope. Give him a drink, bartender.

Oh, my sobriety streak ended at ten weeks. I joined Lovie and Shannon for
pints of Sam Adams at Smokey Bones BBQ several nights ago. So much for
staying on that horse...

Joan Jett And The Blackhearts @ 24th Street Stage, Va. Beach, VA (7/4/02)

The triple-doppler forecast of horrendous humidity brought upon by tightly packed New Jersey tourists, scattered showers from the spit outta these people's mouths and threatening thunderstorms courtesy of the Greekfest reunion on 19th and Atlantic Avenue made me wanna stay inside by the record machine. Must've been about 17 minutes later when fellow Jett-ite jOhn A. told me to gather my dimes for the in-person jukebox. Oh baby, I could tell it wouldn't be long until the Queen of Rock 'N' Roll was with me...yeah, with me! But before our dance, it would take a little time to find a parking space. Rather than waste coin on a meter that needed constant nourishment, jOhn fed an officer of the law seven crisp one-dollar bills at the Vaaa Beeech Pavilion's entrance. The gentleman was on a paper diet and willing to share his weight-loss secrets in the form of tickets. jOhn had already pigged or cowed out, therefore, he kindly said no gracias to the gun 'n' badger. After a 35-minute walk on a path adjacent to pocket ghettos, surf shops and two old farts singing about a little deuce coupe repossessed from Charlie Falk Auto, the stage was in our sights. Sure enuff, a fair amount of fairweatherers had taken their spots on the grass. Some folks were waving stars 'n' stripes; others were wearing them. A drunken Filipino man on crutches, donned in Uncle Sam gear from head to toe, had his Polaroid snapped with some boy in a wheelchair. Not a split second later, Mr. I Want You was back at the beer tent -- Ain't that America? Though the fireworks laxtravaganza had been the weakest display of Chinese-American togetherness since my meal at the Happy Buffet several months prior, the throng surrounding us gave its collective chopstick salute to the not-so-crackling conclusion. Backfire from a '76 Pinto would've excited these easy-to-pleasers.

At approximately ten Pee Em, Miss Jett and the Blackhearts came out to the cries of The Who song NOT called "Teenage Wasteland" playing on a Library of Congress-sized bookshelf system. With the "Family Feud"-esque ending portion of the track complete, the band opened with one of the five numbers on my checklist ("Bad Reputation"). Most of the crowd probably didn't give a damn about this Ramones-y rock 'n' roll anthem, but those dolts need a Francis Scott Key to improve their station. 96-X? Oh no, not me. "Cherry Bomb" (check #2) made some of the daddies and mommas say hello. Despite my association of this paean to teen-age fun with Cherie Currie on vox, Jett had me and grabbed me until I was sore. "Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)," the third mark, gripped with glitter gloves and a molesting chorus. She didn't have to ask me twice. Yeah. Oh yeah. "I Hate Myself For Loving You" (#4) broke free, ran and came back to me. My cee dee copy of the el pee from which this cut appears on (Up Your Alley) came with a carefully placed sticker on the jewel case (97-Star...Plays More Hits!). To loosely quote a promo blurb of this long-gone spot on the dial, Jett always "gives us the phrase that pays." "I Love Rock 'N' Roll" (#5) had spent seven weeks on Casey's countdown as the numero-uno song in the Ewe Es Aye (1981 or 1982...nine-year-old naughty boy or ten-year-old troublemaker). Without a doubt, the majority of those with green stains on their white shorts had reserved sod seats just to hear "I Love..." before moving on. That's exactly what happened. Never mind the Blackhearts had at least five more tunes to perform; the view of lawn chairs folding, umbrellas closing and feet walking was upsetting to jOhn and me. But only briefly, for we moved forward to get a closer look and feel of a still-relevant rock 'n' roll legend. You can keep your Iggy Pop going like a weasel with his nu-found metal nuances, Aerosmith (brought to you by the Chrysler Corporation) performing children's music on Nickelodeon, and the Rolling Bones (thanks, Terry!) osteoporosizing their way through the 30,000th live version of "Not Fade Away" and charging $250 for the decomposition. Me, I'll take Jett -- who is still doing alright with the boys in my estimation. "Don't Abuse Me" and "The French Song" were the evening's surprise "deep cuts," while "I Wanna Be Your Dog," "Roadrunner," "Love Is All Around" and "Everyday People" were different strokes by different folks made Jett's own with her first vocalization.

Near night's end, I made a comment to jOhn that few people on Earth have more rock 'n' roll in their blood than Joan Jett -- the artist known as Pink could sure use a transfusion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Heavy Sleepers - s/t (Holy Cowboy, 2001)


This three-piece from Vaaa Beeech must've been catching some Rip Van Winkles under a tree since Two-Triple Zero, for I wasn't aware of the 'Sleepers' bedside manner until several weeks ago. My pal jOhn A. tossed me their EP like an illegal Frisbee on the Oceanfront sand. Fortunately, the pedal-pushing policewoman only gave jOhn a warning, thus allowing me to keep the flying disc. I won't be throwing this well-rounded object into File 13 anytime soon. Wham-O! Retro-modern (oxymoron is necessary for differentiation) rock that's very much like the kind Dave Kendall used to roll on "120 Minutes." The 'Sleepers would've awakened the Boston-area Em Tee Vee viewership had they napped in the late-80's, as they remind this sheep counter of pleasant dreams from the Lemonheads/Pixies/Buffalo Tom triumvirate. Amplified acoustics ("Glue And Feathers" and "Vanished Cage"), buzzy-guitar brawls ("Mae" and "Almost Always") and garage grunge ("House On The Hill" and "Wait A Minute") comfort the listener like a bed of nails from Mattress Discounters. Sharp! Have a good night sleep on them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Mockers - Living In The Holland Tunnel (One Eye Open, 2001)

Producer Mitch Easter, somewhat known for fronting Let's Active but mostly remembered as the man behind the controls of Really Exciting Music's finest hours, makes sweepstakes winners outta The Mockers on ten of these twelve very fine entries. "It Wasn't Just Me" moves to the beat of the ultimate slow dance -- that 0 BPM twist 'n' turn called heartbreak ("I don't think you meant it/Told me that you thought it's for the best/Then why'd you have to go and do The Macarena on my chest?"). "Pearly Gates" doesn't require a 700% tithe to Mister Robertson's wallet for admission to its enclosed community ("Heaven's not a country club/Some can join and some are snubbed/Depending on the church where you have been/It's all just within your mind/And there's no gate to hide behind/To keep all the people out you don't want in"). "Robin's Problem" is that she has too many ("...Attention span like MTV without a television/...A 2-D girl in a 3-D world on a monetary mission"). "C'Mon Over To My Side" wants its subject to cross Maturity Street ("Day by day, you're older now/Just leave that all behind/You say you'll change the way things are/Why isn't now the time?"). For investors of all eras pop (be it '60s Ewe Kay or '80s Gee Aye), the smart money is on The Mockers.

Quang T - Lookin' For A Conquest (self-released, 2001)


Ten well-produced and arranged compositions that alternate between the quirkiness of Missing Persons (minus the synth action) and the slow-burn of the Alice Cooper Band. "Enquirer" is a temporary respite from the long lines at Gene Walter's Marketplace checkout ("It's not so bad/To worship Jennifer and Brad/And to see how they're clad/Or know which fashions are rad/And she gets a real thrill/As the stories unfurl/It's just her escape/From this miserable world..."). "Natural Selection" begins with some Hawaiian Punch for Captain Caveman ("Cha qui na soonomia soonomia/Com a lot toe na ta ka toe na ta ka"), before pouring modern man a Pepsi product ("If you can't survive the mass migration/You'll be lunch for the crocodiles/The gene pool drained for the generations/Your carcass lays where the vulture smiles"). "Generation X" ain't about Idol comma Billy, but rather, an idol to many ("If you didn't get to know him/While you lived through your teen angst/Let the mystery intrigue you/Find the ghost in lyrics past"). "So Much" deals with a "loving" relationship that's solid only after the sun goes down ("I'm your girl, keep me on the side/Knock on my door in the dark of the night/'Cause I'm that good, just not good for you/You got me, baby -- what can I do?"). In the here and now, all I can see what's in front of me. Lines form on my face and hands. Quang passes Bozzio and Furnier's routine inspection.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Candy Snatchers - Ugly On The Inside EP (Get Hip, 1999)

It's fitting that the new single from this wild bunch is on Get Hip, since my first Snatchers experience was back in May 1993 at the King's Head Inn. Also on the bill that evening were The Cynics, whose Rock 'N' Roll album was largely responsible for changing the musical outlook of one 18-year-old introverted Salem High School grad. Over twenty shows, 20,000 gallons of beer and twenty-hundred self-imposed AA sessions later, The Candy Snatchers still keep me intoxicated. With this latest attempt to overtake The New Bomb Turks
in the ongoing "Let's record as many singles on as many different labels as possible" tournament, butchers Larry, Matt, Willy and Serge cut their leanest-and-meanest side of beef since the Dead EP on Centsless. $3.99 isn't one hell of a price to get your kicks. Hell yeah!

Thee Apostles - "One More Time"/"Hurry Up And Die" b/w Big Bobby And The Nightcaps - "Alcoholic Suicide"/"Have You Seen My Baby?" (Black Lung, 1998)

Another loud 'n' primal piece of blood-red vinyl brought to you by those rock 'n' roll gypsies (note the address change -- AGAIN!) Silas and Bumper. Thee Apostles' first cut has the guitar-and-piano punch of The Humpers' last record sans the Plege-polish production. "Hurry Up And Die" ("Well I could write a book upon the pain that you have caused/That ain't worth the headache or the time that it would cost/Or I could send you hate mail every single day/I won't sleep until your last day") is some evil-toned garage rock (The M-80's meet The Stitches?) with killer backing vocals. On the flip, Big Bobby And The Nightcaps lead off with "Alcoholic Suicide" that's done up in their early rockin' style. Great refrain: "Alcoholic suicide/You can run, but you just can't hide/When you're soaking in formaldehyde/All your friends will be back in time." Even better is the second track, which was originally recorded by Randy Newman. Though I've never heard the "Short People" author's version, I'm willing to bet that The Nightcaps' take stomps all over it like a Doc Marten on Gary Coleman's head. Excellent singing/playing -- if these guys are "this town's last hope for rock 'n' roll," things are definitely looking up at the moment.

The Tone Deaf Pig-Dogs/No Class - Saved By The Bail (Smash It Up/Simple Things, 1998)

I had a good feeling about this release when my eyes made contact with the cover. Having watched more episodes of "Saved By The Bell" (and its various offshoots) than the average male in his late-20s would care to admit, it's refreshing to find others with similar boob tube tastes. TDPD's side is Zack, Slater and Screech arriving late day after day -- stoned outta their minds while jamming on Angry Samoans and Screeching Weasel in the parking lot. Note that the two "geeks" on SBTB's first two installments were named...Screech and Weasel. Coincidence? Report to Mr. Belding's office for clarification. No Class' half finds the three amigos' garage band being offered a deal on Fat Wreck Chords. Meanwhile, Kelly and Lisa flirtatiously convince Mike to cough up the production budget, so that the class can afford another trip to Hawaii. I spent 1.5 years at Bayside. The dog always ate my homework.

Friday, November 19, 2010

WAYNE COUNTY

Wayne County was a seminal figure of the NYC rock 'n' roll scene in the early 1970s. Originally from Georgia, County injected a high-camp theatrical presence into straight-ahead rock 'n' roll sounds. During her (explanation later) tenure with the Back Street Boys (yeah, that's what they were called!), Wayne recorded the theme for the legendary New York club Max's Kansas City. Due to a lack of commercial appreciation in the U.S. (though she'd drawn national attention by smashing Handsome Dick Manitoba's [from the NYC band The Dictators] face in with the butt end of a microphone stand after being heckled), Wayne relocated to the more friendly (musically speaking) climes of England.

After setting up shop, County enlisted a largely new backing band. She rechristened them The Electric Chairs. They recorded three albums in 1978-79 that weren't released statewide (a damn shame when an American artist can't get domestic vinyl). Several songs from these recordings like "Rock 'N' Roll Enema," "Toilet Love" and "Dead Hot Mama" date back from 1971 -- when Wayne formed her first band called Queen Elizabeth.

By now, you're probably asking: "What's the deal with these misplaced pronouns?" That question is best answered in the opening lines of "Man Enough To Be A Woman" ("I've got a transsexual feeling/It's hard to be true/To the one that's really you"). Not long after the third album, Wayne become Jayne -- onstage and off.

Although this course of action would cause some to look at Wayne/Jayne as a curious novelty, it's a mistake to ignore the recordings. Rock 'N' Roll Cleopatra, a twenty-song compilation, collects tracks from all three Electric Chairs albums. "Rock 'N' Roll Resurrection" strings together words and images of rockers past (Morrison, Brian Jones, etc.) with one great guitar riff. "Worry Wart" makes light in the face of a paranoiac junkie scene ("You're six feet tall/You weigh 93 pounds/And you worry about being fat"). "Eddie And Sheena" tells a two-part tale of a couple from two different sects who have a baby ("And they named the little brat Elvis...ROTTEN!"), complete with deadpan Johnny R-like snarls. "Toilet Love" has playfully disgusting lyrics that are guaranteed to cause uncontrollable laughter ("Your underarms are more than I can bear/And you never, ever change your underwear"). "Evil Minded Momma" swings with a cool rockabilly jaunt. "Fuck Off" tells it like it is ("In other words, if you ain't got time to take a walk with me on my meat rack, then you can just get the hell outta my bread line").

Think I won't put my running shoes on for that request, but you'd have to be a vegetarian in a butcher shop to pass on this outstanding collection.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Fuses - I Wanna Burn (American Punk, 1998)

Herky-jerky fare resembling the dubbed Gang Of Four/Suicide Commandos tape that's been lodged in your Kraco cassette player since New Wave was...new. "Perfect Worker" ("He's the prototype/He makes you feel inferior/He rules your workplace/Homo superior/He's got his briefcase/He's got his drone face/You can't win, 'cause you're running his race"), "Your Ambition" ("Your sweet success becomes a sour, sour bore/Your ambition is a sick, sick whore/Drown yourself on your market floor/Something's not right, it's such a bore"),
"At Least You're Getting Paid" ("Too many years thinking for yourself is really getting you down/Now you work the 8-to-6/Got no time to get your kicks/Forty years behind the pen/Think you can start again?/You can't") and "Radio Patrol" ("They say music is their business/I've got no trust in business interests/You got the money, you got the airwaves/They're gonna play what the company dictates/Boring sound") will incite stiff, robotic twitches from everyone present at the next Mark Mothersbaugh Appreciation Society affair. Don't forget your thinking cap and dancing shoes. Appropriate dress required.

various artists - Les Pauls & Breaking Glass (Coldfront, 2002)

Listening to both of the American Heartbreak selections ("Too Beautiful" and "Angeline") over twenty times in a row left me wondering why these P.H.D.-ers in rawk ain't on the fuckin' radio. The oomph, hooks and rockin' appeal are all there waiting to be taught, times a million. Think Soul Asylum's "Somebody To Shove," Goo Goo Dolls' "Long Way Down" and "D Generation's "No Way Out" -- remember the goose bumps that formed when you first heard these "lectures"? Prepare to be chilled once again! Darn shame the Heartbreak can't receive at least Veruca Salt-type exposure on the morning announcement airwaves.

With the grade 9-12's current fascination for "rape rock" (thanks, Rutledge!), is the real deal gonna stay alive? Ask The BellRays. I mean, "High School" could save the FUBUS from their misplaced identities, with its Saints-esque swagger across them backwards baseball hats. Led by a genuine soul sista belting her pipes in concert with a tight rhythm section, The BellRays could teach the baggy-jeaned learning disabled that R & B doesn't stand for Rhyming & Bullshitting.

Kid, if you ain't heard the Dead Boys by now, just keep on sailing in yer $200 shoe-boats, 'cause there's nowhere to dock. You don't deserve to hear Young, Loud, And Snotty or We Have Come For Your Children or this song "War Zone" dug from the sea chest. Jimmy Zero does a never-heard-him-sing-before vocal turn, backed by music that's very structured and very art-school Britain. But you wouldn't like it, Kid. It ain't "extreme" and doesn't "rage." So long, yo...

Electric Frankenstein were once Instructors of the Year candidates way back in...oh, 1997 or so. The Time Is Now and Conquers The World were both great singles collections that made honor roll students outta everyone (except Kid) who had listened to their Dead Boys/Pagans lesson plans. Ironically, EF would later claim Victory (Records) and be defeated in the process. At least "Razor Blade Touch" somewhat harkens back to the days of lively PTA meetings. Very little of that sealed-with-a-(bad)-KISS-album lipstick imprint which dots some of EF's post-'97 pucker-ups.

El Diablo (Spanish for "Jerry Only") is lightning-fast, Dwarves/Zeke-style stripper music. "You like to shake that ass, that's as sure as shit/You like to shake those big tits for cash..." Welcome to Economics 101, taught by Professor Big Mama Jama.

Toilet Boys are keeping the janitors company. They're Sweet and looking for a KISS, but TB wear a different lip gloss than EF.

History repeats itself. If a pupil is stupid, he repeats history. Libertine is not the first Social Distortion/Psych Furs gang who has walked the halls. Remember Sponge? No? Yeah, you do -- "In a world of human wreckage...well I'm lost and I'm found and I can't touch the sound/I'm plowed into the ground." Does that ring the tardy bell for ya? You're late again. And again. And again. And again.

U.K. Subs/National Razor F.D.I.C - Gruesome Twosome, Vol. 1 (Morphius/VMS, 2001)

Though not at the top of their game like fellow geezer Barry Bonds, these old dudes can still catch passes with the veteran confidence of Jerry Rice or deflect them a la Darrell Green against an overmatched receiver. Only four "new" songs of Subs-tance here. They're OK, but the re-makes of Thunderclap Newman's "Something In The Air" (in both "regular" and "dub" versions) and an update of the Subs' solitary drunken anthem "Party In Paris" (OOH LA LA LA, OOH LA LAY!) show those blokes aren't quite ready to ride the pine like Namath on the L.A. Rams or Mays on the N.Y. Mets. Bet the Subs will love being compared to American sports figures. Sign me up for The Cricket Channel, and I'll talk about "wickets" and "tests" in my next review.

Along with Jakkpot and The Fuses, you can now add National Razor FDIC to the list of great acts from the Charm City. If you swear by Naked Raygun's Understand? like I do, or if you're looking for street-punk that goes in non-Clash musical directions, take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to NRFDIC's next show. Key track "Commercial Insurrection" covers the onslaught of TV ads which have featured classic tunes from Iggy, Buzzcocks, etc. Expertly addressing the "turning rebellion into money" cause celebre ("Tommy Gear, Tommy Gun/Fixes clogs, Ivory Soap/Hey ho let's go, king of beers/Johhny sells, Mountain Dew/Lust for life is good for you..."), the Razor slashes the throats of those who are "Gettin' old, gettin' soft/Need some cash, selling youth." Well done, but Pete Shelley singing over a bear-in-the-woods backdrop hasn't made me go to Denbigh Toyota ("Where the deal of a deal always makes a great deal of difference!") and drive off their lot with a new RAV-4 (fuzzy dice, purple paint and all, G). Someone should ask James Newell Osterberg: "First Nike, now Reebok??? Who da fuck you think you are??? Pete Sampras???"

Monday, November 15, 2010

THE ZEROS

The Zeros from Chula Vista, California were one of the more interesting exponents in the early L.A. punk scene. Composed of Javier Escovedo (vocals/guitar), RobertLopez (guitar), Hector Penalosa (bass) and Baba Chanelle (drums), this band of youngsters got together in 1976 out of boredom more than anything else. They began rehearsing after school -- first in Javier's bedroom, later at a full-fledged recording studio. Questions of "What are we gonna sound like?" never entered The Zeros' mind.

Says Javier in the liner notes of the Bomp! retrospective Don't Push Me Around: "Our sound was influenced by all our favorite bands: The New York Dolls, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Bowie, KISS, T. Rex, as well as sixties punk groups like The Seeds, The Standells and The Animals, who we also took our look from."

After playing a number of gigs in Mexico and the surrounding San Diego area, The Zeros abandoned Chula Vista for the developing L.A. scene. Their first L.A. show was with The Germs and The Weirdos at the Punk Palace. That gig made The Zeros a fixture in L.A., as they played other city venues like The Masque, The Whisky, The Starwood, etc.1977 saw the band release a pair of classic punk singles: "Wimp" b/w "Don't Push Me Around" and "Beat Your Heart Out" b/w "Wild Weekend." Ever the travelers, The Zerosdecided to move up north to San Francisco, after playing a series of successful shows at clubs like Mabuhay Gardens, Temple Beautiful, Grove Street, etc. Like in L.A., theyimmediately adjusted to the surroundings and befriended many San Franciscan bands (The Avengers and Nuns, to name two). It was during this time The Zeros played one oftheir most memorable shows (a benefit with The Clash in Feb. 1979).

Hector recalls this highlight in the Dec. '96 issue of Maximum Rock 'N' Roll: "So Negative Trend were supposed to open, then us, then The Clash. But Negative Trend got some kind of rock star complex and wanted to play in the middle. So we said whatever. There were 3,000-4,000 people there! It was nerve-racking, but we played our set. Then The Clash suddenly decided they wanted to go on in the middle. So they play, the place goes ga-ga, they finish, and the place just empties out in 5 minutes. Negative Trend comes onand nobody's there."

1980 had The Zeros opening for John Cale during the West Coast portion of his tour and recording three more songs ("They Say," "Girl On The Block" and "Getting Nowhere Fast"). Later that year, they played some gigs in NYC. Disastrous results there (stolen guitars, smashed vans, etc.) prompted a re-think for The Zeros, and they split up approx. June 1980.

Though they never recorded an album proper between '76-80, The Zeros' influence touched many (impressive for a band with a total output of three 45s in four years). Hoodoo Gurus regularly made "Wimp" a part of their live sets. The Muffs did a take of "Beat Your Heart Out" on a '92 single. Teengenerate's raw 'n' rippin' version of "Wild Weekend" can be found on their Smash Hits album.

Pick up Don't Push Me Around (which contains all aforementioned tracks, plus unreleased demos and live action), start practicing at the storage unit of your choice and maybe I'll see your band play "Handgrenade Heart" in the near future.

Pressure Point - Cross To Bear (TKO, 1998)

"Junkie Dreams" ("You've bought a one-way ticket/You're going nowhere/Soon you'll wake to find your life has been the fare/Full of dreams and aimless schemes that never really exist/Soon you'll wake to find/You're livin' off, livin' off junkie dreams"), "Never Look Back" ("Just another teenage rebel, lookin' for a fight/Just another drunken, heartache-filled Friday night/Just another heart waitin' to be broke/Just another ripe mind, ready to fit the mold"), "Nowhere To Turn" ("Gunshots out my window/Someone's dying out in the street/A new king has been crowned/He's bound for the same defeat/In a world so full of hate, you know I've been betrayed/After all is said and done, all the questions still remain") and "Bitter End" ("Staring in a pint glass/Searchin' for a revelation/I close my eyes, I realize/We're headin' in a different direction/Please tell me how, just tell me now/Just how we arrived at this/This bitter and still ushers in such a painful loneliness/Green eyes, my green eyes/Where have you gone?") are four of twelve tough-yet-forgiving street rockers that'll please the Dropkick Murphys/U.S. Bombs/Swingin' Utters set. Produced by Uncle Lars Frederiksen, who is to "Clash City Crockers" as Nephew Noodles is to "Rock You Like A Hurricane."