Columns - "Digital Block" 04.01.02


So there I was sitting at a ice cream parlor type table in a bar named Top Cats sipping my free beer. A band called The Wholigans, a The Who cover band, were absolutely murdering The Who song after The Who song while they kept explaining that they were doing a show without their lead singer and to "keep an open mind" when listening to their renditions.

I kept sipping my free beer in partial payment for being a member thereof the second band on the bill-- Zero Crag. Along with two close friends, Mike AKA "Microbe" and Andy AKA "Android" we formed Zero Crag in the summer of 2001. Zero Crag would be a second band obligation with my first being the bassist in The Socials.

This Zero Crag appearance would turn out to be our fourth career show even though Andy and I have played numerous shows with our other bands. We had played a basement venue the previous night to an excellent response. We were asked to play via Zachy lead vocalist/guitarist of Thee Shams. Zachy had booked a Athens, Ohio hotseat band called Geraldine but they ended up not being able to make the appearance.

So he got Zero Crag instead.

Microbe was to my right. I leaned over and slapped him on the arm to get his attention. I had something to say. The Wholigans had just decided to branch out and Murder some Elvis Costello songs by this time... Murder indeed.

"Hey Mike" I screamed so he could hear me over the music. He leaned toward me aiming his ear at where my mouth was to better hear me. "I have a new Zero Crag song title".

Song titles are my thing. To me its the first step in writing a great, memorable song. I come up with allot of Zero Crags song titles.

"What is it?" he screamed back.

"Its called ‘A Car with Tank Treads’ ".

I could see Mike laugh and go back to watching The Wholigans and how NOT to be in a band. The Wholigans finished the Elvis Costello song and as the few mindless drones that were already drunk enough began to clap I yelled out

"Play some Teenage Wasteland"

I continued. I figured I hadn’t been loud enough because I didn’t see anger on their faces yet. Of course each of you know what song Im talking about by calling it ‘Teenage Wasteland’ but FUCK, this was a The Who cover band.... The Wholigans.... I got louder as I continued:

"Teen..... Age......Waste...............Land"

(end prologue)


Hi. My name is Shawn Abnoxious. I’m banned from Top Cats....

Its not like I’m a trouble-maker or anything. Sure, I have dangerous friends that have done their fair share of dangerous things... Hell, those of you keeping score will know of my harrowed tales of past episodes of The Shawn Abnoxious Show where I haven’t used the best judgment possible in certain situations but I mean FUCK! Im human. Im going to make mistakes and I am glad to say I learned from them.

What I did to get myself and any band I am in from ever playing Top Cats again or hell, the banning even went so far as to include me EVER setting foot in the place again, I truly felt WASNT a big thing at all. Ms. Communication, my fiancée and personal manager said it in a way I could have never put it. Up there, on stage with The Shark (The Name of my bass), I’m coming from a creative place. Im taking myself seriously and when someone fucks with that, it pisses me off.

Zero Crag had played the previous night at a new Cincinnati basement venue called The Laundry Room. Theres no real viable venue in Cincinnati for regular punk bands to play-- or at least one that the city will let remain open and NOT continually hassle (see: The Void). Zero Crag as lucky enough to be asked to play Top Cats so we obliged. At The laundry room we played a packed house (literally, a house) and were riding high going into the Top Cats show.

Zachy Sham told us to show up around 10 and 10:30 PM. Its important you remember this....It was his logic that we should definitely be at Top Cats BEFORE the first band, the Wholigans play. It was understood that the Wholigans were to have arrived, set up their material, done a sound check, and done whatever cover bands do before they play; work on their moves or whatever... The Wholigans were to go on at 11PM sharp.

The Wholigans were ALLOWED to play until midnight. At that time Zach wanted Zero Crag to set up and play our set, not to run past 1AM. Thee Shams were to do as Zero Crag did previously; set up and play some rock and/or roll until Top Cats last call.

M and the Ms. arrived at the Zero Lounge promptly at 9:15 PM. At approximately 10 PM we left in two separate vehicles and by 10:30 had finished loading in our equipment at Top Cats.

As Zach had designed. Mission accomplished.

The Wholigans were just setting their levels, I supposed they were right on schedule to but they didn’t begin playing until well past 11 PM.

They played shitty cover after shitty cover; on and on and on and on and on and on and on....

and on...

and on...

We all thought they were never going to fucking end but at last they did and Zero Crag did as instructed; we loaded our equipment on the stage and began playing. We weren’t looking at watches. Our set wasn’t that long anyway.... We figured we had a hour to do our thing and banked on getting it done with time to spare. Time left over so Thee Shams could get two double zero two psychedelic on everyone a BIT more than usual.

The set we were playing pretty much mirrored the one we did the previous night except for a couple of changes. Began last year I have began taking a new approach to bands I am associated with and their shows. I have developed something I call A Partial System Acumen. This Partial System Acumen is a basic double sided hand-bill sized advertisement about a band with contact information, band BIOS’s line-ups, a set list etc.etc. The Acumen is designed to familiarize your bands listeners with your song titles and what your band is about. I figured the next day after a show, these Acumen’s will be found in jeans and purse pockets and people will be Reminded of you.... I also design them to be something that could be plastered on a wall with the cover of the Acumen coinciding with the bands set on the opposite side.

This particular Acumen told the story of how Zero Crag became known as Zero Crag and listed a short band roster and Acumen standard; a set list. I make about 60 Acumen’s per show and hand them out before the band plays. It was done at The Laundry Room the previous night, and it was the same deal at Top Cats.

People could hold the Acumen and follow our set as we played it. We took the stage and began our set. Twelve songs in 30 Minutes.

"Watch the Minutes Eingo"; a song about a kid putting a squirrel in a microwave for kicks... "E.W. Deployed and Associates"; art damage in our empires capital...

Taking a cue from Pat Slob, I kept repeating the fact that we were Zero Crag and we drink beer on stage and play rock and/or roll. Its a sort of inside joke involving a episode that The Android and a prank phone caller was involved in but none-the-less, Pat reminded me that it made him laugh so I kept saying it over and over in-between songs.

"Designed to Work", a song whose lyrics were adapted from an instructional sheet from a substance used to clean up industrial spills.... Current Zero Crag anthem: "Push Button Warfare"...

I continued stressing that Zero Crag was a rock and/or roll band and we drink beer on stage while we play rock and/or roll. The bartender let me have three drinks to take onstage so I had refreshments aplenty. I have a bad deal with getting cotton-mouth when I play. Nerves I suppose. As much as I was fooling and tooling, I really was drinking beer onstage and playing what I called rock and/or roll. I cant be held responsible if everyone dont agree with me and my definitions. I implore them to gear up.

"Pink Fuck"; I wanted it to be a band name for Ms. Communications side-project but it ended up being a Zero Crag song title.

Someone threw a beer can and I told them not to after one song. I proclaimed that we were not a punk band, throwing stuff was a punk thing to do and Zero Crag was a rock and or roll band and we drink beer onstage and play rock and/or roll.

A song about playing Ms. Pac Man; "Brand Neu New Wave War". a Zero Crag hard hitter. After War we decided to change things up and substitute "There Are No others" with "Angry Men on an Angry Planet".

I explained into the PA as Microbe tuned that we had played a basement venue the previous night and "those fuckers danced so dont you dare" then I called them pussies as we broke into "No Others".

Zero Crag was doing pretty good if I do say so. People were moving and responding to our set. A few people, for whatever reason which I figured was consumption of mass downers, really got into The Wholigans set. We kept their momentum up and allowed others to join in. Someone even did ‘The Worm’ across the floor in front of the stage.

After we finished "No Others" It appeared as though Android had some mic problems. I went to my mic to tell the sound man when I discovered my mic was also not working.

Either was Microbes.

A voice spoke as if it was god himself seemingly surrounding Android, Microbe and myself. it was the sound man. "yeah, thats it. You have to get your stuff off the stage for Thee Shams" and the house PA began playing shitty bar music.

The pug was pulled on us due to time restraints. We were over our halfway mark and heading downhill fast. Our last several numbers were pretty much bleeds (term of the industry) meaning that we went from one song into another as the song ended.

We stood in place in amazement. the Wholigans played to fucking long. They badgered and bruised up Who songs, treading over trodden ground for way too long. Zero Crag, a band who decided to drop any attempted and learned covers so we could focus on original music, had to pay the price. We were not told sorry. We were not given AT THE VERY LEAST one last song... We were turned off and told to make room.

I went into constant Nudnik mode. I didn’t need a PA for my bass amp. I push 130 watts out of a 4-12 guitar cabinet and combo Trace Elliot 15" amp. I have no volume problems so I just let The Shark feedback and every now and then I would hammer down on a note playing it as fast as I could to basically be an annoyance.

They fucked with me so I figured the least I could do was make EVERYTHING as difficult as possible on them. it got me the attention of a bar-bouncer thats notorious throughout the population of Cincinnati’s bands for being a real roughass. He liked to kick people out and push them around as much as possible while they were in the bar.

He came up on me and leaned against me deadening my strings. he told me that I was risking getting banned from the club as a band member and patron if I didn’t turn my amp off and get off the stage. He didn’t care about what was done to Zero Crag and truth be known, he probably had it in for me to begin with. Several comrades of mine had some run ins with this fellow and even as I was carrying in my equipment earlier in the evening as I arrived at Top Cats ‘ol thugy-guy himself told the doorman that I had a friend that was banned from the club and wasn’t to be allowed in.

The term "faggy" was used often in description. The Person he was describing was a close friend of mine. The way I see it, he wasn’t using this term "faggy" in a joking sort of way. the friend wasn’t banned either... He worked through some bitterness with the clubs owner who wasn’t on the premises.

I told the bouncer that I couldn’t do as he wished with him all up on me and shit so if he would back up, I would do as he asked. I reached around and turned off my amp. the bouncer gave me room and jumped down off the stage to go bully someone else around...

When he had disappeared into the crowd, I reach back around and turned back on my amp and re-started my noise. The Bouncer quickly ran up on stage and told me I was now OFFICIALLY banned for life from Top Cats.

"Do NOT test me sir".

"Fuck you. What is five plus two? I AM testing you"

He then let me know that I was risking physical ejection if I continued my present course. I was waiting for my answer. We were once again where we started. Him up on me deadening my bass, Me smiling.

"If you touch him I guarantee there will be five people on you before you realize it." Said a voice from the crowd.

It was Mark. Also known as "Timmy". One of the most prolific Cincinnati frontmen ever. Timmy led The Twerps back in their day. Sure enough, surrounding him were others. The bouncer, at Timmys suggestion, came down off the stage to talk to Timmy while I kept asking, well, really rather YELLING the question ‘Whats five plus two?"

"...It isn’t six".

"...It isn’t eight"

"Its seven" yelled out someone from the crowd....

"Hes a smart boy, dont help him. This is a test. Whats five plus two?"

"...It isn’t six".

"...It isn’t eight".

Then, Timmy told me to stop, pack up my gear and leave. Everything was OK, Stand down. Defcon 4, not 5, but 4; still aware of danger...He went up to bat for me. I known, and more importantly, respected him for years. I have reason to believe him in situations like this. I did as he asked.

I just wanted to leave. I had enough. I got me and any band Im in banned from Top Cats for life. Zero Crag was fucked with at a very creative moment for us WITHOUT justification. What was done, and how it was done was wrong. I lashed out, in defiance, the only way I know; Sonic-Cannonade.

I was stopped as I was loading out my equipment by the door man who tried his damnedest to convince me I was wrong and he was right for what Top Cats done.

Im not sure if he wanted an apology or what. Like, he wanted me to be like ‘Yeah, your right about all of this. Im sorry. Please dont ban me for life, I will be a good little sheep and kiss your ass’.

Smooch. Smooch. Top Cats was wanting a blow-job and a swallow to follow.

Android wasn’t upset at what I did nor the outcome. Nor was the Microbe. Zero Crag was united. I was told IF Zero Crag had shown up at a reasonable time before our set, Top Cats would have been more lenient with our situation. We SHOULD have been there at around 8:30 PM even though The Wholigans were not there at that time.... Android, who doesn’t own a vehicle tried to drop his drums off at 7:30 PM; a opportune time for him and Top Cats was locked up tight. No one from Top Cats called and told us when to be at Top Cats either. All we had to go off of was what Zachy Sham had told us (See, I told you that would come back up later...).

Now, I MIGHT be considered a rock-star, like I was alluded to by the door man for the number of shows that I have played, but my experience tells me that a 8:30 arrival time was too early to show up to this show.

I can honestly say that I believe I was trying to be goaded into starting a fight to give Top Cats a reason to fight, then call up the infamous Cincinnati Police department to lock me up.... Pitiful indeed. Little does the Doorman know or the bouncer but Im not only Shawn Abnoxious but Im fortified with plenty of B vitamins in a Zinc fortified Stress Formula that levels my once raging ass out.

I feel as if I didn’t do anything wrong except the whole bass noise thing... Action/reaction. I wasn’t apologizing for what I did. what the doorman was explaining to me was fine, I dont care what he thought was good nor bad about the night. I am mainly surrounded by people whose opinions sometimes are greatly different for me. Im use to being alone in my beliefs...

But I wasn’t alone. Zero Crag was STRONG and UNIFIED on this one. So I went home and sat around in my underwear strong in my convictions that Zero Crag played a great set and was ultimately wronged for what was done. So Im BANNED from Top Cats for life. To quote The Slobs: WHO REALLY CARES? A venue can ‘pull the plug’ on any band they want. After all, it is their place and all, but their authority; which really isn’t any kind of authority at all when you stop and look at it, ends at their doors.

Top Cats will not make or brake Zero Crag. We continue and move onward. As with lifes other battles, Im not asking for an apology about all of this. Im not asking for a reconciliation. What I ended up asking for is a promise that I will NEVER be allowed in Top Cats doors again; and ironically enough that was something the doorman couldn’t do for me. Go fucking figure. And Im considered the asshole to Top Cats in all of this. Thats funny. Laugh you "faggy" Mother-fucker. I said laugh.


One day, maybe even tonight as I sit and write this piece.... Im considering calling up my "faggy" friend to see if he is still hung over from the previous night or just plain hung... That same bouncer will meet someone that wont have restraint like me and will take their bass off or pull out their gun out and take things a couple of levels past where I left it. Me? I got Zero Crag practice this Thursday for another show at The Laundry Room basement.



"Hey Mike" I screamed. He leaned toward me better hear me. "I have a new Zero Crag song title".

"What is it?" he screamed back.

"Its called ‘A Car with Tank Treads’ ".

A car with tank treads. Overcoming barriers. Just a car isn’t a car. Its a car with tank treads. Overcoming barriers. Suprize. I wonder if my sub-conscious somehow didnt know what was going to happen before it happened.... All future telling; Nostradomus and shit.

"Dont tread on Me".


You just read A Car with Tank Treads, the second installment of Digital Block by Shawn Abnoxious. This story was based on true circumstances.

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