Superchunk has just released Clambakes Vol 7: Shut the F*ck Up!…No, We Love You – Live at the Corner Hotel 1996. It was recorded live in Melbourne, Australia on November 23, 1996.
Mac wrote of the new Clambake: “To celebrate our return to Australia, we take you back to the last show of our last visit and a Clambake recorded live at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne in November 1996. It sounds like this was a fun night and I’m sure it was—Smudge and The 3Ds were on the bill—so please excuse a few glitches in the recording and enjoy the energy circa ’96. Looking forward to seeing you again shortly.”
Superchunk will be in Brisbane and Melbourne next week, Nov. 11 – 16. Rock down under, y’all!
Clambake Vol 7 track list:
3. Hyper Enough
5. Punch Me Harder
6. Silverleaf and Snowy Tears
7. Iron On
8. Water Wings
9. Wilbur Chat
10. Sunshine State
11. On the Mouth
13. Why Do You Have to Put a Date on Everything
14. Skip Steps 1 & 3
15. Tie a Rope to the Back of the Bus
16. Driveway to Driveway
17. 100,000 Fireflies
Get a leg up with the acclaimed singer-songwriter. Guarantee: no PETA employees were consumed in the making of this article.
BY PETER HIMMELMAN (AS TOLD TO RANDY HARWARD)
Several years back I had a gig as a blues singer on a paddleboat called the Josiah Snelling that used to steam up and down the Mississippi carrying tourists mostly, but also some gamblers, fur traders, assorted Indians and a dozen or so guards from Stillwater state prison. It had an enormous paddle wheel in back and as far as I knew, it was the last of its kind on the entire length of the river.
It was on this boat that I first met Karla Weinstein (I learned her real name later from an article in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press.) There was nothing particularly memorable about the way she looked when she first stepped into the tiny bar area where I’d been doing my set. She was on the south side of pretty, short, about 5’2” and change with closely clipped black hair, wire-rim glasses, and a too-small turquoise turtleneck that showed off a bit of flat stomach. She was sitting on a bar stool drinking a gin and tonic when she motioned me over. I’ll never forget the first words she said to me—and bear in mind that when she said them, she wasn’t trying to be funny or seductive. At least it didn’t seem so at the time.
“Hey Peter,” she said, “have you ever had a hankering for some really good-tasting meat?”
“Yeah, I s’pose I have,” I said. “What do you have in mind?”
That’s when the trouble started. Or maybe I should say that’s when the beginning of the trouble started, because there was a whole lot of fun and good cheer that went on before the trouble. I finished up my set and by the end of the night, everyone except for Karla had got up and left.
So the two of us went down to Karla’s stateroom and drank a bit more, talked some and listened to some old 45s she’d spun on a portable record player she’d brought on board. Great stuff, too: The Archies’ hit “Sugar Sugar,” “Black Snake Moan” by Blind Lemon Jefferson and one of my favorite songs of all time, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. The version she had was in Portuguese, very haunting, very seductive, but also very sad in some odd way. Before the song ended Karla and I were both in tears. I’d gotten sad because I’d been thinking about my Grandma Rose who had died recently and because the Portuguese sounded vaguely Yiddish, which is what my Grandma Fose often spoke, and Karla… well, I didn’t have a clue as to what she might have been crying about.
After the tears, we slow danced in her room, having a really good time when suddenly, she flings the record player off the table and starts laughing this horrible, witchy laugh that I can remember perfectly today. I should add that almost exactly when the laughter began, a storm picked up and you could hear a bone-crunching thunder and see these tremendous bolts of lightning which flashed through the little port holes in her stateroom, making it look as though we were both illuminated by some kind of intense strobe light. When the last record ended all you could hear was the sound of our breathing and the thunder from outside. That’s when Karla kneeled down and took a hot-plate and some kitchen utensils out from underneath her small bed.
“Who’s hungry?” she asked.
When the oil in the pan got hot enough she added some garlic and cilantro and then some ground beef that she’d kept on ice in a large Coleman cooler. When it was ready she served us both a big helping with some white rice on paper plates. Karla was strange but damn, she could cook. And I was hungry too, on account of all the dancing and whatnot.
When I woke up the next morning Karla was gone and I could hear all kinds of commotion outside. The Josiah Snelling was flooded with FBI and the entire upper deck was cordoned off with yellow police tape. There was a body under a bloody sheet and police photographers were taking pictures. When I looked out onto shore, I saw Karla in handcuffs, laughing as she was being pushed into the back seat of a squad car.
Later that day, I learned that the body under that sheet was missing a leg.
Peter Himmelman is one-half of Minnesota, a band featuring director/screenwriter David Hollander. Their debut album Are You There? was released last year on Hymn and Holler. Read our interview with Himmelman elsewhere on the BLURT site.
In which the surf guitar heroine, thanks to an absentee tour manager, goes from bad to worse on her first European tour.
By SUSAN SURFTONE
It started off bad. He left us waiting three hours after we arrived at the airport in Paris. No phone call. He didn’t answer his cell or mobile or whatever you want to call it. The Belgian tour manager. Let’s call him Road Warrior. I was with Bashful the keyboard player, Happy the drummer and Grumpy the bass player. I guess I’d be Doc if this wasn’t written in the first person. We were starting our big Euro tour; Belgium, Germany, Demark, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands and France. The Road Warrior was our guide. He spoke seven languages. Common sense wasn’t one of them.
Grumpy did what he always did when he had time on his hands. He drank. If he drank too much he’d turn ugly. Happy ran around the airport checking out stewardesses, especially Asian ones. Bashful fretted with me. Road Warrior arrived with no excuse and off we went. This was perhaps the only time I was glad to see him.
The van made “broken-down” seem like a luxury vehicle. It was a two-tone red and cream converted delivery van but, hey, it was a Mercedes. It could do 60 mph at best and we were going to be on the Autobahn a lot. It had no heat except a tiny space heater that seldom worked. No seat belts with a big bench seat in the back. A suicide knob used often and hard by Road Warrior rested on the steering wheel. Major Tom sitting in a tin can up front, just me and the windshield waiting for me to go through it.
The first gig was in Brussels. Grumpy was mad. Happy was, well, happy and Bashful was optimistic. We went to the club and Bashful and I, both being female, encountered an odd ritual practiced by young Belgian males. Beer was served in a plastic cup. The young Belgians would literally take a full cup out of your hand, drink from it and walk away with it. One tried it with me and he was soon very wet after I threw it in his face. After that I drank in peace.
Road Warrior forgot to get an adapter for the bass amp to accommodate the different current in Europe. He also forgot a lot of the drum hardware. Road Warrior ran off into the night to get what we needed. Grumpy proceeded to blow up the bass amp when he did some finagling with the wiring and plugged it in. There was smoke. Road Warrior returned three hours later with some equipment. We played and those who stayed seemed to like it.
Road Warrior then disappeared leaving us with the club owner and his girlfriend who spoke very little English. They took us to a club. It was pouring rain. Then, to another club. It was about 4:00am and no Road Warrior. The club we were in wanted to close and were ready to throw us out. Finally Road Warrior showed up.
We got into the van and drunk Grumpy, Happy and Bashful fell asleep in the back. I remained awake in the front passenger seat. Good thing. Once outside of Brussels we were driving along a two lane road when we started to veer off onto the right shoulder toward some trees looming in the dark. Road Warrior was asleep. I woke him up just in time.
It was the little things over the 30 days that the tour lasted. I fell off the stage in Nuremberg when I couldn’t see the edge in the dark after we played. Straight down and landed on my feet. It hurt for days. After a gig in Kassel, Germany Grumpy was pontificating in the bar with a bottle of beer in hand. As he threw his arm back he caught me right in the mouth with the bottle and broke one of my front teeth. Blood and tooth everywhere. I was talking to a fan with Bashful. We went into the restroom to assess the damage and when we came out the fan was waiting to continue the conversation. Very punk rock.
Happy had a tendency to play fast, too fast, when he got excited. We were in some dive in the Back Forest where the bathroom had overflowed even before the crowd arrived. The place was packed with people shoulder-to-shoulder about a foot in front of us. You couldn’t swing a guitar neck. Happy played faster than the van could go on the Autobahn. I mentioned it to Grumpy after the gig and he launched into a drunken rage at me.
I left the bar and went across the street for pizza. One of the best pizzas I ever had. In the Black Forest, who knew? After every gig Road Warrior fed Grumpy booze. I think he was hoping Grumpy would finally hit me. He didn’t. Almost but he didn’t except for the accidental beer bottle.
We played the second to last gig in a small bar in The Netherlands before heading into Paris for the final gig there. There were two sawhorses with a surfboard set up on it right in front of the very low stage. What the hell. As we started to play, liquored-up Dutch farm boys, big ones, took turns taking running leaps at the surfboard. The board went flying, farm boys went flying. At us.
We literally had to dodge them. All while Road Warrior got drunk and danced around with silver Christmas garland on his head. After the gig he told me we played for free. He had to make it up to the bar owner because the band on tour before us left the tour early. It seems their drummer had trouble with the food and shit his way all over Europe until deciding to call it quits.
After all this I went back again the following year. Round Two with Road Warrior. It got worse.
Susan SurfTone (yes, formerly of Susan and the SurfTones) released Too Far (www.susansurftone.com) this week, July 9. Check it out!
SUSAN AND THE SURFTONES – “I’LL CRY INSTEAD” (BEATLES COVER)
You see a lot of fucked up shit in 5,000 years. Here Come the Mummies, via their interpreter/manager, tell of one – apparently ongoing – incident.
BY NIGEL QUENTIN FONTANELLE DUMBLUCKE IV
Shadows. Great columns. Endless space. Gold, marble, copper, lapis lazuli. Saffron in the air. Music. Incense smoke. Drums, wind and string instruments. We played and played. A wedding. A tremendous feast! Grapes, dates, figs, fishes, nuts, quail, duck, perch, catfish, carps, mullets and eels, elephant-snout fish, tiger fish, moon fish, cucumbers, melons, broad beans and chick peas, olives, cakes, pomegranates, bread, barley beer. Wine! Dancing! Seductive undulations of well-groomed nubile females. The youngest and most beautiful of the Pharaoh’s daughters was married today, to the son of the General of the Armies. Eight daughters. All off limits. Merely the thought is a danger. But it is a thought that occurs to us often…
Darkness. The Silence. Aeons passing. Time evaporates. Earth. Rocks. Worms. Pebbles. Struggle gives way to exhaustion which gives way to resignation… struggle, exhaustion, and resignation… an inexorable cycle. Impossible to move except by fractions of an inch. Can’t speak. Mouth full of sand. Suffocating!
A feast! Music accelerating. Wine! More wine. And more yet! A drunken frenzy. A great crescendo of laughter and song. A crashing gong of a night!
…I remember fragments. Quiet. Tranquility and moonlight. Torches now mere glowing embers. I’m roused as something brushes my cheek. Skin. Some woman’s neck or thigh. Still badly intoxicated, nevertheless awake and newly alert, it hits me: women’s necks, women’s thighs. Fingers and toes. Eyes, ears, lips, tongues. Hair. Raven and gold. Bellies, backs, breasts, calves. Curvy, voluptuous, and delightful in every way. Sweetly sweaty. Wine. Love! Life! A wonderful dream. An ecstatic reality…
Morning. Stillness. Silence. Everyone sleeping. Groggy. Grey light. A breeze. I look about me. We, my bandmates and I, are laying betwixt and between several (how many!) lovely naked young women. What beauty! Look at the lovely bracelets, rings and charms, and all manner of ornamen… tay…shun. What the? Oh, no! God, no! The daughters! The Pharaoh’s seven maiden daughters! The chill of recognition runs me through like a sword, as I look around. Then close behind me a horrifying shriek of terror!
…Restless underground. Underground. Can’t move. Can’t speak. Mouth full of sand.
Tossing and turning. Sweating. No escape from the visions projected on the inside of my skull. Eerie flashes of light. Screams. Shouts. Lightning running through my teeth and through the bones of my spine. Blinding light shooting out of the tops of our heads. On fire. Agony. The Pharaoh’s face glows white with rage. Unappeasable now. Un-opposable. Killing. He is speaking, uttering a supernatural curse. Booming!
“…Disgrace… festive day… daughter …never rest… eternally… most unappeasable rift…” Riff? We cannot hear. There is just a howling. A howling wind, and grievous thunder, and a shrill whine like a great drill. One that bores into the skull. A fiery wind strips our clothing from us. The sand stings our faces. Can’t see. We cannot hear. It doesn’t matter. We know. It’s all over. This is the End. It’s just beginning… Without doubt, the most fucked up thing we’ve ever seen.
Sun. Wind. Sky. Dunes. Dust. Wandering. Hungry. Thirsty. Now only thirst remains.
Falling. Flying. Darkness. Light. Darkness. Centuries. Millennia. Hurtling across a Great Nothing.
…Dim yellow light. Awake. Emaciated. Dead. Yes. Dead. But living. Un-alive? Dead-esque? Born again? Un-dead. Yes, that’s about right. Un-dead! We look at each other with a grim sense of resignation. We have been here before. We will always be here. We have been hovering on an E9 chord for the last thirty-two bars. Or has it been thirty-two days? Or years. Or decades? Longer? My saxophone is in hand, mouthpiece between my crumbling lips, but how did it get here? Mellow, if dusty, sharps and flats issue from my horn like playing cards on a nonexistent string, shot from the sorcerer’s hand. The beat is never ceasing. Always the same. Always changing. Time has ceased to be. We play and play, searching for the key. That unlocks what? Redemption? That breaks the curse? That returns us to what? A half-remembered half-remembrance? No, our doom is sealed.
…After an abominable, interminable interval, an odd scratching sound slowly becomes audible during the rests in our music. Getting louder. Strange. Then, a loud metallic scrape. We stop. We turn to each other in puzzlement. The reverberations die after what seems to be an eternity. There is quiet. A raging, pregnant quiet. My dusty heart skips an un-beat.
The sound of a pickaxe striking rock. Ding! Dink!
Whack! A shaft of blinding light. Collapse! Rock, dust, a great blinding column of sunlight. Sunlight! We have to cover our eyes. The sweetest, most fragrant air imaginable wafts through our underground prison, filling our withered lungs.
Squinting through our fingers, the figure of a man slowly takes shape. Wide-eyed. Defensive stance. Pith helmet strapped at an odd angle upon his head. Frantically reaching, trying to put it right, to no avail. Terror-stricken but putting on a good front. His flashlight teeters upon and finally plunges from the new ledge, conking him squarely on his disheveled head, scrambling very well his heretofore soft-boiled mind. A half-choked scream dies in his throat. The crotch of his pants soak through in an ever widening circle of shame. We are face to face. The most fucked up thing we’ve ever seen, y’all.
Hollywood! Flying machines! After much legal wrangling and despite the ill-will of several international powers, we are in the Burbank studios of NBC in the mid-nineties of the twentieth (!) century. Our dedicated, lovable (if not-quite-all-the-way-there) discoverer, agent, and business manager, Nigel Quentin Fontanelle Dumblucke IV, is grinning from ear to ear, very pleased with his ingenuity. We are taping an ill-conceived pilot for a TV series starring Here Come the Mummies and the reunited cast of The Golden Girls. It was thus we came to be left alone overnight with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, Betty White, and a week’s supply of one of the early fore-runners of the drug Viagra ™.
We know what you’re thinking. And you’d be right, too. This was, by far, the most fucked up thing we have ever seen. And we are just getting warmed up. Onward!
(Translated from grunts and love-bites by NQFD IV)
Venerable 5000-year-old funk/R&B band Here Come the Mummies released Cryptic last month. Check out the live performance video for the track “Chaperone” below. You think the Stones look old? That ain’t shit.
In which the titular Tremulis expounds on the (im)proper way to get down.
BY NICHOLAS TREMULIS
As the summer festival season rears its sweaty head upon us I think its only fair game to comment on a phenomenon I’ve witnessed since playing outdoor shows from my teens to the present. It may not be the “most fucked up” but it is generally commented on by the bands I’ve been in as, “Now, that’s fucked up!” So I think we’re playing in the same ballpark.
In all cities and towns… all countries, parishes and provinces this strange occurrence is a constant at every festival I’ve ever performed. It is always two people; one male, one female. They usually look the same and dress the same from town to town. Maybe it’s a secret union like the Freemasons? Could it be a birthright bestowed upon them that has been carried on for generations? I think the best way to describe it is in handbook form so let us begin our little instructional booklet.
THE LOYAL ORDER OF HIPPY-DANCING COUPLES
Let’s start with your uniform.
Men: You need to wear cut-off blue jeans, preferably a vintage of at least 20 years since their purchase. “Low-rise” are the best choice for this as they must be pulled as high up as possible, yet still revealing the “coin purse” for the impressive double-jointed moves you’ll use during your performance. What once might have fit well must now be tight as hell, revealing an explicitly detailed outline of your impressive tackle box. (The Crowning Touch!)
As you are most likely in your mid-fifties or sixties, one guesses you might be a little thicker in the middle, making it harder to keep your apparel in place. This is where a good, sturdy set of suspenders (preferably the rainbow kind) can add functionality, whilst whispering a touch of the continental to your ensemble.
Shirts are optional, but a good wife-beater that has been tie-dyed with as many colors as possible is optimum. Just make sure to trim the bottom so that at least four inches of your midriff is showing. Hot!
Finally, nothing on earth is more regal than the balding ponytail. Let your freak flag wave!
Ladies: I can’t begin to tell you how to dress. Of course, matching outfits are unbeatable in any forum. Let’s just say fringed t-shirts and headbands are the coup de grace to any trousseau. You are the illusive rock and roll Tinkerbelle-with-a-fanny-pack-gone-bad!
The Dance: You’d think this was a freeform sort of thing, given the footage from Woodstock and the like, but throughout the years this has evolved into a very regimented and disciplined art form. Here are some of its rules and regulations:
1. Always dance directly in front of the stage. You’re a big part of the show. You don’t want to gyp the fans of the band that came early by stepping off to the side. Right in the center of the action is where you want to be. You’ll need space to do this right. A good estimate is about 60 feet across and 30 feet deep. You may wonder how you’ll be able to clear this much space right in front of the stage? Believe me, once you start dancing people will start backing away pretty quickly. Shock and awe!
2. Stay in character! Men, you are the wizard of seduction, conjuring the wind and sky to enslave the beautiful maiden before you. This can be done by waving your arms around in a sort of catching butterflies kind of way, dropping to your knees a lot always adds drama, spinning and leaping are always top drawer and the pièce de résistance; the jumping handstand! Basically anything you thought looked and felt cool when you were 12 is now twice as cool.
3. Ladies, you are a renegade sprite prancing from tulip to tulip, drawn into the vortex of your sorcerer partner’s hypnotic undulations and off-color Italian hand gestures. You are a slave to a rhythm only you and your partner can hear and understand. Also and maybe most importantly; there’s no such thing as too many cartwheels. Keep ‘em comin’!
Finally, you are now part of the band. They need your help to steer them into this new symbiotic relationship. Grab the band’s set list right off of the stage to see if they’ve forgotten to add the staples of your choreographed set. You’d be surprised, but in working on our own material, we often forget to work on your set as well. “Feels Like the First Time” and “Don’t Fear The Reaper” are the sine qua non of any set and yet we always forget to learn them. Feel free to yell these titles between every song. It can only make the evening more magical!
Last but not least; yelling “Free Bird” is still hilarious, never gets old and sets you apart from the herd. You are the rock ‘n’ roll Adam and Eve! See you this summer.
The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra just released the career-encapsulating CD/book For the Babydoll: www.nicholastremulis.com
[Photo Credit: Sandros]
NICHOLAS TREMULIS ORCHESTRA – “WITHOUT YOU, WITHOUT ME” LIVE AT RAX TRAX
In which the esteemed editor of The Lowbrow Reader goes down on the corner. In a matter of speaking.
BY JAY RUTTENBERG
For eight and a half years, my wife and I lived in a squalid hovel on West 15th Street in Manhattan, just large enough for the Census Bureau to avoid categorizing us as vagrants. We paid handsomely for the apartment. I adored living there.
Alas, there existed a downside. Residing in the neighborhood meant that I regularly found myself at the intersection of 14th Street and Eighth Avenue: the worst junction of New York, if not the hitherto explored reaches of our solar system.
Each patch of the area presents its own unique disgrace. To the southeast is a sleekly annoying glass behemoth designed with the sole purpose of housing the wealthy. If memory serves, the building began construction roughly around the time that Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan from the Canarsee tribe, and was completed only in the last couple of years. Abutting this building sits a gloomy space, generously labeled a “delicatessen,” which counts among its clientele some of America’s most aggressive riff-raff. Once, when walking by, I overheard a bloodcurdling row and began to call the police, afraid that the establishment was finally being torched to the ground. Upon closer inspection, I discovered two of its employees irately throwing food at one another while customers cheered.
Cater-corner to the deli stands an imposing structure that, at any point in its history, seems to capture whatever is ugly in New York’s zeitgeist. It was built at the turn of the 20th century as a muscular bank, a glorious shrine to avarice. When I moved into the neighborhood, the building housed a ghastly carpet shop; this was replaced, during what future historians will no doubt regard as the Sex in the City–era, with a millionaires’ grocer, every piece of produce handled as if it were a dictator’s infant son. In the thick of the recession, the building sat conspicuously empty. And now, this grandiose structure is leased by a corporate drugstore, aisles of tampons and toothpaste sadly arrayed beneath the heavenly domed ceiling. “Sorry,” society says with a demoralizing shrug, “but we really cannot do any better than this.”
The corner’s deepest failings, however, lie not in its stores, but in its streets. I have long suspected that the bohemian chestnut about refusing to travel above 14th Street had less to do with an aversion to uptown squares than the lack of hipness intrinsic to getting hit by a car. Years ago, a traffic cop was briefly stationed in the middle of the intersection. It is my assumption that she did not survive her shift, as she quickly vanished, and the police ceded the crossing to anarchic motorists.
The area’s style of driving favors maniacal turns and flamboyant stops, as if each vehicle is returning from the same driver’s ed course, and it is taught by Popeye Doyle. On weekend nights, many cars bear the words “garden” and “state”—so innocuous when taken separately yet chilling when encountered together on a license plate. While in Manhattan it is unlawful to take a right turn on a red light, this regulation is gleefully flouted, along with those rules about not using one’s automobile as a racing device, weapon, or quadraphonic hip-hop broadcasting system. George Washington crossing the Delaware once was brave; me crossing 14th Street for nearly a decade as half the population of New Jersey swerved towards my person was heroic.
After a handful of terrifying near-misses and at least one letter to the mayor’s office proposing that an aerial tramway be erected over the intersection, I am happy to report that my wife and I eventually moved a few blocks north. It is best not to ask my thoughts on West 23rd Street.
Despite writing the classiest, most tactful TMFU entry to date, Jay Ruttenberg is the editor and publisher of The Lowbrow Reader (online at www.lowbrowreader.com). Early last year Drag City’s publishing arm dropped an anthology of the mag’s best stuff, aptly named The Lowbrow Reader Reader. For more information, peruse the below interview with Ruttenberg, originally published in BLURT #12, then check out a pair of way cool videos. THEN, get off your ass and go get the book. It’s a hoot.
Stooping to the Level
Jay Ruttenberg’s Lowbrow Reader, anthologized and analyzed.
The New York Times called Jay Ruttenberg’s Lowbrow Reader “A smart little magazine about dumb humor.” Sure, it lionizes Adam Sandler’s Billy Madison, and gives the Queens of Comedy (Mo’Nique, Sommore, et al) a venue to discuss their sexual proclivities – not exactly the most edifying topics. Then again…
Everybody fucks, everybody poops, and many of us have been drunk enough to hallucinate giant arctic birds. Doesn’t that universality make it relevant?
“I think a lot of great comedy draws its strength from addressing base topics in an intelligent way – and, conversely, looking at lofty topics from the perspective of a moron,” says Ruttenberg. He points to Chris Rock, “far and away the smartest standup of from the past 15 years. When he talks about, say, politics, it can be with faux man-on-the-street ignorance; when he discusses sex or relationships, he speaks as an exalted philosopher, using the preacher’s cadence of his grandfather. I should point out that Chris Rock is also the favorite comedian of the President.”
Ruttenberg started the Lowbrow Reader with “the vague notion of covering what was generally perceived as ‘lowbrow’ comedy in a hopefully smart and funny way.” He also wanted the magazine to “come from a heartfelt place” and to steer clear of ironic praise and disingenuous approval. “It always gets my goat when a critic fawns over something that is conventionally bad, but you can kind of tell his admiration is insincere… If the accolades smell false, it cheats the reader.”
And so it is that The Lowbrow Reader Reader (Drag City) compiles cartoons, commentary, essays, fiction and verse from Patton Oswalt, Neil Michael Hagerty, Gilbert Rogin and David Berman. It also includes an ardent and lengthy look at Billy Madison from Ruttenberg himself. “If you have only seen Adam Sandler’s later movies, that may look stupid or phony,” Ruttenberg says. “But after giving this way too much thought, at least for a mentally healthy adult, I can report that Billy Madison really is my favorite movie.”
However, he defers to Margeaux Rawson’s interview with the Queens of Comedy –originally conducted for Glamour, which rejected it as way too blue – as the book’s masterpiece. “All I can say is, if a person is to read only one article in the book, I hope it is that one. Unless that person is my mother-in-law.” –RANDY HARWARD
Videos:ADAM GREEN – “You Blacken My Stay” and “Give Them a Token” (Live at the Lowbrow Reader Variety Show)
In which the Seattle band sees blood spatter and butts paddled.
BY SNOW AND GARNET KEIM
We began touring using the Book Your Own Fucking Life manual and online community (www.byofl.com) to navigate ourselves around the country. We played anywhere and everywhere, from a roller rink in Katy, TX, to a house space in Portales, NM, a private catholic school in Shreveport, LA, a dorm in Pocatello, ID, and a collective in Birmingham, AL. It didn’t matter where as long as we were moving, having fun and playing good shows.
It wasn’t glamorous by any means and many nights were spent in the van with a 40-ounce and a can of sardines. Occasionally things got so bad we would wait behind grocery stores until the deli food prepared that day was discarded and usually that was dinner. (We discovered most grocery stores have to throw out any food in the deli that didn’t sell that day.) So, we would wander in on a given day around 8:00pm when the deli closed trying to reason with them to just give us the food because we were going to get it anyway. Unfortunately more often than not the conversation would always devolve to something like “We’d like to help but it’s policy, you know?”
So while our egos may have been bruised, we managed to get by and stay fed through some very difficult times. During that period, one incident I recall distinctly was in Fort Worth, TX – a punk show hosted by the teenage son of a wealthy Texas judge. It’s worth noting that also on the property were caged purebred wolves, an arboretum and a huge barn where the show was to take place.
The most notable name on the bill, as I recall, was a band call ANS (pronounced “anus”) with hardcore punk numbers, ripe with idealism and riddled with frustration: “Abercrombie, Abercrombie, Abercrombie army wants you!” and that sort of thing. One of the show goers, a kid who was also in a band that performed, had a fondness for cutting his chest with razorblades while he screamed out his teenage angst. All well and good, except this time with ANS performing he became rather overly enthusiastic, almost to the point of insanity and, with his razors, went deep.
I’d stepped out of the barn for a drink and next thing I know is there is an ambulance beside us! The kid with the razors had sliced very deeply across his chest and stomach and also along his forearms and biceps and had lost a massive amount of blood. While everyone was thrashing and pumping their fists and enjoying the show no one had seemed to notice. Finally at some point the loss of blood must have started to seriously affect him and the ambulance was called. Suffice to say, he made it and we were all happy about that!
Another memorable event from around the same time period occurred in Frostburg, MD. Frostburg is small college town in the foothills of Maryland right near the border of West Virginia. It’s quaint, or at least that is how it appeared to us, from the outside.
It was a cold night and the venue was the Regal Beagle. A dive bar, but a step up from most of the venues we had played so far. The show went well and afterwards the locals who were involved with setting up the show invited us to an after-party at a friend’s house. Being late, I was tempted to hunker down and try to get some sleep but it was 20 below zero; sleeping in the back of a panel van would have been next-to-impossible.
Inside, the party had begun to get lively due to some more folks arriving with missing teeth and homemade moonshine in mason jars. Garnet and Bob had already sampled the hooch and so I needed no encouragement and could benefit from a pick-me-up to right myself from the bitter cold of the van. It went down like fire and made your head feel light and foggy.
The host was becoming concerned that we might wake the upstairs tenant and suggested we retire to the basement or shall I say, padded basement. Now here is where it got weird.
One girl was standing on her head while trying to take shots. Then there were these two guys who were wearing these big, black, punk rock belts with metal studs. They decided to remove their belts and start whipping the ass of another girl who was in a spirited mood. It sounded painful but she didn’t seem to object and, on the contrary, appeared as if she enjoyed it.
It kind of then caught on and a few of the other girls wanted to give it a go. The girls seemed to be having so much fun, one of the guys volunteered to be whipped as well. All the while this was going we were trying to make small talk, drink our beer and generally not pay much attention. That was when the revelry makers seemed to collectively realize that they had an out-of-town band in their padded basement, who had probably never experienced this type of good old fashioned hillbilly fun.
Someone in the room started to chant “The Blakes! The Blakes! The Blakes!”
Oh, shit I thought! Two of the guys grabbed Garnet first and held him while another guy and girl started putting the belts to him. We were way outnumbered, so Garnet took it good humouredly with the expectation that a swat or two and this whole thing would lose its excitement. Next Bob was grabbed and while he squirmed they held him fast and walloped him.
I realized then that that this was my moment to escape! I dodged for the stairs, one the guys tried to block me but I was quicker and ducked him and scrambled up the stairs then out of the house and into the van. It must have been ‘out of sight, out of mind’ because nobody followed and nobody bothered me for the rest of the night.
I guess I opted for the 20 below after all. The next morning I was informed that after some 15 or 20 wallops, things settled back to a relatively normal state. With sore butts, hangovers and hope for the future we ventured on to the next night.
The Blakes’ eighth album Art of Losses departs from their signature blend of garage rock and power pop to incorporate Brit-pop and synthpop influences. Rest assured, however, that it’ll still kick your ass until it bleeds profusely – and leave you with hope for the future of rock ‘n’ roll. Check out the video for the single “Narwhal” below and visit them at www.theblakesband.com where you can pick up the music.
Latest pick of cool emerging artist in our ongoing collaboration with Sonicbids.
By Fred Mills
The BLURT staff put our heads (and ears) together and we have the latest pick for our Blurt/Sonicbids “Best Kept Secret”: it’s Love X Stereo, from Seoul, South Korea. This makes our 22nd BKS selection since commencing the program of spotlighting new and under-the-radar artists back in 2008.
The group is described in its bio as “an electro rock band… authentic electronic music based in alternative and punk rock from the ‘90s. With its free use of synthesizing and effects, Love X Stereo’s music is danceable. And despite the fact that many genres aside from K-pop are being completely excluded in the harsh environment of the Korean music industry, its consistency in creating well-produced, visionary music continues to attract global attention. By infusing alternative music with electronic elements, Love X Stereo is creating a fresh new style of music that is continually gaining great respect from both sides of Korean independent music scene; rock and electronica. Its music often confuses Korean audiences who isn’t always accustomed to absorbing new sounds, but it definitely takes center stage in the expat community (in other words, foreigners living in Korea) thanks to their impressive live performances and memorable song-writings.”
Indeed, one readily detects everything from Smashing Pumpkins, U2 and My Bloody Valentine to classic ‘60s girl-group, spacey ‘70s Prog and poppy ‘80s nu-psychedelia in the band’s sound – check, for example, signature track “Soul City” (aka “Seoul City” for a sleek sample of the impressive instrumentation and vocalist Annie’s sensual croon.
We’ll have an interview with the band posted to the site shortly in which we let them fill you in on all this and more. Meanwhile, check out their official website or Facebook page for additional details as well as song samples. They’re one of the good‘uns, trust us.
Love X Stereo:
Annie – Lead Vocals, Keyboards and Synthesizers
Toby – Guitar, Backing Vocals, producing
Sol – Bass, Backing Vocals
Young Hoon Jang – Drums
In which weird-ass bus drivers risk death for all aboard – and everything turns out okay?
BY IAN CRAFT
Last summer we were on a tour with a terrible bus driver, not that he was a bad guy – on the contrary. He was a hilarious guy. But I don’t think he had slept more than two hours a night since he started driving 30 years ago.
Several times we wondered what was happening up there that would be causing the bus to be frolicking and bouncing so badly. Mostly I think it was the lack of interest in driving and more focus on talking on the phone and CB, as well as eating sunflower seeds. As we sat in the back lounge we noticed a tractor trailer getting too close for comfort then to our surprise we hit him at 70 miles an hour. We were just outside Chicago and traffic was thick like gravy; no place for shenanigans like that.
That didn’t stop us, though. Neither did a stop sign. There were several moments of sheer terror when he ran over a stop sign like it was just what you do at stop signs, and that’s cool. As we plowed into the semi he screamed, “You wanna buy the motherfucker, motherfucker?!”
In his defense, it was a nice ride. Somehow we managed to make it to Chicago and had some awesome shows. Needless to say, we knew where we stood as precious cargo to be treated with nothing but professionalism and safety, minus the safety and professionalism.
This brought up some war stories from the rest of the crew. As we careened down the road, swerving from lane to lane and beyond, my buddy came walking up from the back of the bus right in time to get slammed into the cupboard. As he came out of the bathroom covered in piss from the bumpy ride, he started telling me this story.
He had seen the bus driver, who was supposed to be driving the bus, playing a unique game of Tag – the bus-driving version. Apparently the object of the game is to put the bus in cruise control and try and run from the front of the bus all the way to the back lounge and touch the wall, then run back to the wheel. Of course, if you win all is well and good and nobody knows the difference. Lose, and everyone dies in a bus crash. Pretty amazing what people will do to stay awake on a moonless prairie night.
I must admit, driving many late nights and long hours in the van, there have been several times where the lull of the road and the blur of the lines makes you wanna fall fast asleep. There isn’t much you can do about it – once that sleep gets a hold of your eyes, it’s a slippery slope. To think of ways to keep your self awake is no new thing but it does make you wonder just how do these professional drivers do it. Our hats off to you all!
Some good times were had and some hilarious stories were told, but the most fucked up story is when one night, one of the guys on the bus came up front to use the bathroom and noticed the bus swerving dangerously. The driver, while talking on the phone, eating and checking his CB feeds (much like our own driver on the current trip), attempted to reach out across the jump seat for his coat.
Somehow he was distracted and fell face first down the stairs, feet in the air, head down by the door, completely stuck and fucked. The bus was just wildly driving itself. This was the scene that our buddy happened upon. Nothing like a bus with no driver to help expedite that early-morning piss!
Luckily he was plucked from his imminent death. The driver recovered the wheel and they rolled happily down the trail. Ah, what fun it is to ride on a giant steel diesel death trap thru this great country! Hallelujah and amen to all that.
In which our hero tells a tale of “Unwelcome Company” on a Melbourne stage.
BY HENRY WAGONS
I was trying to keep calm, reclining in the green room backstage at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne, Australia at our hometown CD launch in 2009. It was a full room and the crowd were savagely drunk. I could tell they were soaked when Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is” came on the house stereo and it prompted a 1,000-person strong sing-along. They sounded revolutionary. I was excited to go on, but also a little on edge about the whole situation. The one portly blonde security guard backstage looked sluggish on a stool in the corner of the room and was slowly eating chicken out of a bag, spreading it all over his cheeks. He was a mess.
It was time to go on. As I expected, it was a dangerously ravenous reception. I felt it was not necessarily because our fans wanted to see us particularly, but because all the bright lights and noise had finally kicked in, providing thrills to the shitfaced, like drawing moths to a flame. It seemed like I was on the set of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” video. Let’s be honest, it was awesome.
We started. We wanted to keep the crowd hyped, keeping this frenzied momentum up, so we kicked the show off by playing an old fire and brimstone evoking single from an earlier record called “Man Sold.” It went mental.
The first verse went well. It was surreal. Actually, it was the opposite, it was quite hyper-real. It was as if everything went into HD. I noticed one of the guys from the front row creep up on stage with a can of beer in his hand. He danced, flailed and swayed behind me in amongst the band. It was ok. I guess it was fun to watch for the audience. I was happy to run with it. When the first chorus kicked in, he came up and clumsily joined me on the mic, clawing at it.
It was at this point I started to wonder how much chicken was in the security guard’s bag and how long it would take him to get through it. He was nowhere to be seen. When I started to kick back into the second verse, the man took a grab at the mic, smashing it into my teeth. It hurt, but after a quick check with my tongue I knew my chompers were intact. By this stage the man had taken the mic and started to drool/scream randomly into the mic, and the crowd started getting restless, and this was only the first song! I remember hoping that chicken must have been damn good to be keeping security at bay.
I realized I had to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed the mic and pushed the guy off the stage. It was a clean, Miyagi-esque ‘wax off’ type motion. I saw him hurtling back towards the crowd. At that point his feet became tangled in a mic lead and he tripped over a monitor and flipped and his head started hurtling towards the hard floor beneath the stage. Fuck.
Things slowed down at this point, and I saw him slowly fall to the ground landing straight on his neck. If I had a chance to strategically place the guy in as awkward a fall as possible, this would have been it. His head buckled under his own weight and he collapsed limp on the ground as the thick crowd parted around him. The band played on and all I could do was finish singing the second verse, looking down at him hoping for a sign of life. People who were there said the look on my face was tell-tale.
In the moments that followed, I have never been happier to see someone come at me with fists flying! He got up after three very long and limp seconds and was obviously immediately possessed by red line fever, wanting to punch me out, trying climb back on stage. Luckily, people up the front held him back and my blonde security mate finally kicked into action and mildly escorted the man out of the building, feeling full with a radiant, post-chicken glow.
Henry Wagons’ latest EP, Expecting Company?, is out now via Thirty Tigers. The spooky, seven-song platter consists mostly of ghost-town duets with folks like Alison Mosshart, Robert Forster and Jenn Grant. Unlike a mic to the choppers, every last one of these Cash-on-pills nuggets is welcome – to say the very least. Wagons does admit to writing much of the EP in an altered state, by the way. He was, in his words, “delirious with a bad fever and maimed due to a light bulb exploding in my hand.” Hmm… seems like there’d be a fucked up story to go with that…
HENRY WAGONS – “Unwelcome Company” (featuring Alison Mosshart