FRIDAY MAY 21st
I was up and at 'em just in time for the final marathon day of Blackout activities, which were to start with an early installment of The Brian Costello Show with Brian Costello at the Empty Bottle. I stopped for some breakfast chicken rings on the way. I guess The Worst ended up playing a set before the BC Show began, which I missed. Upon arrival, the stage was being turned into the talk show set, which consists of a couch and a makeshift desk for Costello. Tony Sagger was acting as sidekick, and The Krunchies were the house band, playing songs as "commercial breaks". Cos asked the crowd how their dumps were going for the weekend, and someone introduced him to the term "dropping a deuce". Best comment was from Dusty Mistreater, I believe, who when quizzed on how his bowel movements were happening replied "You should know, I'm staying at your house." His first guest was his friend Joe, who didn't like "our" music, as the set-up went. It was pretty funny, as Cos played him samples of tunes and Joe fired back replies like "What's this? Sounds like Flock of Seagulls lite..." when played some Lost Sounds. Good skit. The main attraction were the mysterious Cunt Puppet. Were they for real or a joke? I nosed around a little. Cos said if they were kidding, they were doing a good job of it, as they had been holed up backstage with a case of Busch Light since the minute they arrived. He figured they were for real. They certainly didn't break character, ever. Me, I have some suspicions as to who is behind it, but I could be wrong so I won't theorize. They did a great interview segment, lots of talk about Nascar, bitches, Busch Light, bitchin' solos, and hot licks. Then they actually played, and were actually hilarious. The legendary Busch guitar was there. Lots of hard-rocking hijinks. Example song title: "First Comes the Beer, then Comes the Bitches, The We Have Sex All Night Long". One hell of a joke. I actually ran into Lixx at the Ice Factory. He was wasted, and still in "character", which I began doubt was a character at all. Maybe these guys were for real?
Between The Cos Show and the Ice Factory I managed to go to Hot Doug's, and had most likely the best dogs of my life. I could write an entire article about this place, but I'll spare you the graphic details. We hit the Ice Factory, miss Fashion Fashion and the Image Boys, and walk in towards the end of Birthday Suits, Hideo of Sweet JAP's new band. Two piece crazy lok'n'loll. Kind of Guitar Wolf-noisy, sounded pretty good. The Ice Factory is a cinder block sweathouse, which some people apparently live at when there aren't shows. You walk through an actual kitchen to get to the show space. The heat was rising by the minute, and the Krunchies go on next. Kevin is funny and short, Amanda's cape and caterwauling are awesome, and the drummer is good and fast. Short and fast = good hardcore-punk. They play most of "In De Winkel" and cover "Communist Radio", and I didn't mind seeing them twice in one day at all. I kind of forget the order of events, but I'm pretty sure Functional Blackouts were next. I'd seen the new line-up before, and they seem to have gelled as a live unit more since last time. They played a lot of newer stuff and sounded loud and out of their minds. At this point I believe the Manhandlers played, so we went down the street to buy some beer and escape the stifling humidity and heat inside the place for a few moments.
Upon return, I'm sure Aluminum Knot Eye played. I've never witnessed these Wisconsin wildmen before, although I am a fan of their LP. It was a mixed bag. For the first few songs I thought they were pretty bad. KeithV is an entertaining dude to watch, he has a unique take on the weirdo front-man role. I finally got into them somewhere around "Once Upon A Time in the Midwest", something kinda clicked, and I found the groove they were laying down. They finished with "Is It My Body" which was probably one of the single best tunes I saw performed all weekend. They turned out to be pretty good. Finally, it was Feelers time, one of a handful of bands I really wanted to see. They totally ripped it up. They opened with an instro to which the singer came out brandishing his skate high over his head, smoking a cig, sporting a bad moustache, bad shades, and a cut-off truck stop USA sweatshirt which had "Where's The Party At Motherfuckers" written on the back in marker. Did I mention they totally tore shit up? Frantically moving punk rock, lots of album cuts and more, a cover of "Amerikkka First", the singer dove all over and got countless beers poured on him, the guitarist looked like Jimmy Fallon, Sean Albundy wore a Lost Kids "Cola Freaks" shirt, Aleks stood on top of amps, and the drummer just pummelled. One of the single best straight-up punk performances I've seen in along while, and a real highlight of the weekend. The Ice Factory show was a huge success, and is something they should do again next year. (Right click and "Save as..." to listen to The Feelers)
So, I make the mistake of deciding to walk back to the Empty Bottle along with Coppens and his lady. It was fucking tiring. Probably about as tiring as writing this article is for me right now, and about as tired as you are of reading it. Fuck, let's move it along.
The end is near, as the last night of Bottle festivities begins. I got there shortly into VeeDee's set, and was pretty pissed, 'cause I dig the LP a lot. They were very solid live, did some winners like "TV Police" and "Kaleidoscope Death Ray". Loud and psych-y and swirling and tight. Thumbs up from me. Alicja and RCTL are up next. She's wearing a dress which someone described as "goth girl goes to prom". It looks better than that description sounds. They're good, Alicja's vox sound great, they do "Gimme Whatever", "Time 2 Get Right", plus more, and sneak in an Alleycats' cover I knew Alicja would do someday. Garagey and good.
As the Fatals begin to set up, I post up right in front of the stage. I was waiting for these guys, as I knew this would be the only time I will ever see them. They lived up to every expectation I had, even looking like dirty Frenchmen. There was some trouble with equipment, causing an interminable delay before they started. But as soon as the guitar player yelled "OK, let's get trash!" I knew we were in for it. They smoked through just about every song in their repetoire, and sounded as vicious and in your face live as they do on record. Someone started throwing bottles and one ended up smashing and cut the drummer's chest open somehow, which pissed him off greatly. It was awesome. They just beat the living hell out those songs, the amps and the crowd were screaming, it was trash all right. They slayed, to say the least. People thought they played for too long, but I say fuck that. These guys were probably on their one and only US Tour, playing what is probably the biggest show of their lives, and they can't play a long-ish set? They weren't up there half as long as Reigning Sound were. Whaaaa. (Right click and "Save as..." to listen to The Fatals)
What can I say about the Bad Times? They just blew everyone away. The three man rotation of Jay, Eric, and Louie was non-stop Memphis-trash brilliance. The tore open "Over You" to lead off, then ran through their hits-packed LP. Trapped in the City. Wrong Way to Love. I almost soiled myself during "Streets of Iron", one of the finest songs ever written. We all did the Jim Miller Bounce. Eric even did "Crazy Dream". You're So Lewd. Vaccination. It was intense, seeing these three dudes together. Louie was doing some serious axe-wielding. Jay had a scarily channeled rage emanating from him and looked hungry for a kill. I think Eric was just trying to keep up with these two, and I don't mean that as any slight. It's gotta be hard to keep up with two individuals as possessed as Jay and Louie. Jay launched into "Momma Told Me So" with such a focused hate it was unnerving. I've seen him spit some bile in my life, but that night he had utter and complete hate and contempt dripping off his vocals. "It's the truth, and I hate you!" never sounded so raw. But you felt more than just the hate behind it, you felt the lifetime of feelings Jay's pent up and released through his songs, that we've listened to since he was a kid. And perhaps that's why guys like Jay and Louie and Eric and others grab our attention so tight. They aren't our heroes, they aren't rock stars. They're fucked up just like all of us, they've been burned, they've done the burning, they've been fucked up and done the fucking. We relate. The stage isn't some pedestal for them to be placed upon and gawked at by us. That's us up there, reflected at our ugliest, and they give us as much release as they give them themselves. Because they're not so different. They go back to the same sometimes shitty lives that we do, and try to make as much good out of it as they can, just like us. And the bad, well they get it out by playing, and we get it out by listening. Or maybe I'm just talking shit. Decide for yourself. But I swear Jay exorcised some serious demons during that one song. I saw the fucking fire in his eyes, and it was burning for real. An amazing performance. (Right click and "Save as..." to listen to Bad Times)
Time for the main event. The Pagans, in the flesh. I was nervous. Some of the best punk songs ever were about to be played. How would they fare? They band came out, Metoff in wraparound shades, Bobby Conn shirtless, bald, and wearing leather pants. Mike Hudson wore a black suit and looked every bit of fifty-something. They opened with "Street Where Nobody Lives" and it was total mayhem, just people going apeshit everywhere, me included. "Not Now, No Way" and "Dead End America" got full blown sing-along treatment by everyone. Then Hudson took a smoke break. Or a breather maybe. Me, I think he went backstage and lit up a butt and asked himself what the fuck he was doing. So, Conn sings "Six and Change" and opens it with "Freddy, you didn't have to hit the SKAG Freddy..."? I dunno, maybe just being PC, in a roundabout way. Hudson returns for a half-hearted "Boy Can I Dance Good". I just don't think he could physically do much more. Then they covered "Gloria". Again: what? Then he sorta got a second wind and did "What's This Shit...", then recited some poetry. Then he calls out "When I Die", they finish it, and he says "Goodnight and thank you". Everyone's figuring encore, chanting, banging, waiting, waiting some more, and some more. It doesn't look like like it's going to happen. They finished with "When I Die"? I guess so. Sort of ominous, really. Was it good? For fifty year old dudes, sure. On a Blackout scale, I thought they were better than The Penetrators were, but nowhere near Sonny Vincent good. And I'm sure they got paid well to play nine songs. But what can you do. I've since forgotten what I saw that night, and instead remember the Pagans from the pictures I've seen of them from their vital, younger years. I'm sure they don't want me to remember them as fifty year old men called into service to relive their pasts so we could catch something we were too young to take part in the first time. When I think of Mike Hudson, I think of Mike Hudson circa 1979. Just as Jay Reatard isn't asking to be our hero in 2005, The Pagans weren't asking for such worship in 1980. Back then, they were those guys, just living their lives, our lives, on stage. And now we expected them to be our bepedestaled heroes, something I'm sure they never asked for in the first place. We wanted to see The Pagans legend, and truthfully, to those of us who weren't there when it happened in it's original glory, that legend exists nowhere but in our minds. There wasn't a chance in hell that we would have seen what we expected, so our expectations should have been tempered as such. This I realized in retrospect on a long ride home. And I still listened to a CD of "Everybody Hates Me" as I drove through Cleveland, as I have and will continue to do until I become old enough to care no more. And as I listened, my mind saw pictures of those young Pagan savages living and dying in that city over twenty years ago. And that's how I will continue to remember it.
It was an anti-climatic ending for sure, but it was an ending. We all said our goodbyes, and set off in preparation for our trips home. One of the things you realize at moments like this is that even though you here for the bands, you're actually there for the people. I regretted that I wouldn't see a lot of my friends for another year. But hey, that's what makes these things so great the next time. Despite some ups and downs, it was still the best Blackout I've attended yet, and you know I'm ready for next year already.
Thanks to Horizontal Action Crew, Todd, Uncle Ted, Billiams, Ron Cozumel, everyone else, Criminal IQ/Darius for Ice Factory show, all the bands who played, Karlic, Canderson, and Icki for pics, Clif for audience recordings, and Elvis Costello and Sunday Night Baseball for keeping me awake on the drive home. And thanks to you if you actually read that whole fucking thing.
Feelers pic by Mark Murrmann
Fatals and Bad Times by Canderson
Cunt Puppet by Steve Strange
Aluminum Knot Eye by Rob Karlic
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