Well, it’s November. Time to crawl across the country and read bits out of my book, This Music Leaves Stains: The Complete Story of The Misfits. I’ll also be signing stuff (copies of the book, your CVS receipt, your cousin’s pet tarantula) and answering your questions. Here be the events:
11/12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Lili Cafe 7PM
11/14 – Cleveland OH @ Visible Voice 6PM
11/15 – Columbus OH @ Book Loft 6PM
11/18 – Minneapolis MN @ Boneshaker 7PM
11/23 – Seattle WA @ Cafe Racer 9PM
11/25 – Portland OR @ Powell’s on Hawthorne 7:30PM
If you live in a major city not listed here please know I tried my best to penetrate every big time readin’ market. Alas, I am but a first time author and I just couldn’t crack the circuits in Boston or Denver or Wichita—or even New York, where I’ve lived for the past five years! Do you know how much of my fucking money the MTA has? And they couldn’t get me into book store or coffee shop one! It’s all politics. I don’t have to tell you that.
Hope to see you all out there. Thanks to Jon C. and Rollie H. for naming the tour. Thanks in advance to every person who lets me crash/drool on their couch. No thanks to Megabus and their rigid Midwestern scheduling.
No spirits or spectres made their presence known to me this year on 10/31. Wrote for most of the day, keeping an eye on my e-mail accounts for virtual poltergeist. No dice. Does Hook Hand not have my Gmail address? Need to update my undead contacts.
Went to a party that night dressed as Richie Ramone, the third drummer from that legendary band and the Ramone I most look like in my everyday life. Driving in the leather jacket wasn’t an activity I’d describe as carefree or fun. I guess that’s why the Ramones lived in New York City. You don’t have to use your arms on the subway that much.
The party was a hoot and a couple people even got my semi-obscure costume. Somehow abstained from drinking the candy corn-flavored soda in this couple’s fridge but I did eat a white chocolate Kit Kat. Note to Nestlé: if it ain’t broke don’t pour white chocolate all over it.
Came home and ate a bunch of Reese’s cups. Surprised scientists haven’t figured out a way to mine the oil outta those bastards for our nation’s fuel needs. Breaking free from our dependence on the Middle East could just be a peanut butter cup away.
All in all, a fine Hallow’s Eve. Not as exciting as the year my minivan was egged, oranged, potato’d, cheesed, and greasepainted with inside jokes by my friends but also not as dull as that string of Halloweens in my teenage years when I was too old to trick or treat but still too young to go to parties.
Greetings from the East Coast’s capital of tackiness, South of the Border. It’s a truck stop, it’s a motel, it’s a living breathing anachronism from several decades ago nestled between North and South Carolina. I was in the area researching an unrelated story but the pull of this plasticky garish nonsense proved too strong. Don’t worry, I restrained myself from spending money on anything other than gas, though I’m sure their five dollar shirts emblazoned with the trendiest slogans of 2011 are of the finest quality.
EDIT: It’s been ten hours since I posted this and not a single one of you has stepped forward to angrily correct me regarding South of the Border’s exact location. SOTB sits not upon the border that separates our Carolinas but a few yards below it (hence the site’s “clever” name). I assume this to mean we are all in agreement that SouBor (as the fans call it) is not part of the United States proper and is its own sovereign nation.
Here I am, literally speaking in public at the Litquake Festival’s tribute to Crawdaddy! founder Paul Williams. Paul’s widow Cindy Lee Berryhill took this shot but she failed to capture just how spaced out I felt in this moment. I mean the whole thing was so trippy—in a good way.
The arcade cabinet I’m standing in front of is that ghoulish classic Ghosts n’ Goblins. Unfortunately, it was out of order on this storied night. Same deal with the Joust cabinet on the other side of the doorway (can’t recall what that third cab is). Such a tease. At least I got to look at them. I estimate it’s been more than two decades since I’ve seen either of these games in their most natural and wondrous state.
Can you spot cyberpunk architect Rudy Rucker in the crowd? I can!
Combining bone-snapping speed with Borscht Belt wisecracks, Adrenalin O.D. smeared their name across the 1980s hardcore punk landscape with a handful of albums unmatched in livid throttle and unexpected guffaws. The perfect encapsulation of this comes two-thirds into the band’s 1986 platter HumungousFungousAmongus when no frills blast “Survive” crash lands into a rather faithful/nimble cover of the Jean-Joseph Mouret classic “Rondeau” (couch potatoes know this 17th Century cut better as the theme from “Masterpiece Theater”). Identity crisis? Maybe, but also oodles of fun.
Adrenalin O.D. recently reunited for a white hot show at the Stanhope House in their native Garden State; a week later, guitarist Bruce Wingate was kind enough to spare me some time to chew the fat about the reunion, his life, and Adrenalin O.D.’s ultimate legacy.
JAMES GREENE, JR: What prompted this most recent reunion?
BRUCE WINGATE: Well, we usually average one every five years. There was no specific reason why [this time]. It’s funny, we ended up playing Stanhope, New Jersey, which is way out in the sticks. You think we would have played New York. I’ll admit I didn’t have high hopes going into this but I was completely wrong. The place was packed and it was awesome.
JG2: How did you end up at the Stanhope? Did they just offer you the slot?
BW: We know their booker, ’cause my other band, Diztrict Allstarz, played a show there with Mental Decay, [Adrenalin O.D. bassist] Jack [Steeple's] other band, and yeah, it just kinda all came together. Stanhope is close to where Jack lives, actually. We decided to give the old man the shortest drive this time. [laughs]
JG: Your drummer Dave Scott lives in Florida now. Is he the only one out of range for these reunions? Is he the guy who you have to plan everything around?
BW: It’s dependent on everyone’s schedule. We’re all adults now—well, more or less.
JG2: Is it difficult getting back into playing those songs, or are they totally ingrained in you by now?
BW: The actual playing, there’s a good portion that’s muscle memory. There were some shows in nineties we played that we didn’t practice for, we just went in and did them and they were fine. Now I don’t think we could do that. Admittedly I did make one or two flubs at the Stanhope, but no one noticed. It is hard to do, to play this fast now.
JG2: I imagine these reunions maybe yield some personal evalution. Do you feel like you’re in a good place in your life?
BW: Yeah, you know…lately it’s been a period of self-reflection for me. I just saw my family…I only see my parents maybe once, twice a year, and I Just turned fifty…it’s a little overwhelming. We also just lost a good friend of mine, Bill Bartell from White Flag. There are a lot of friends who are no longer with us. But all in all I think I’m in a good space. [Even though] I’m fifty and unemployed. I got laid off in July and now I’m on blood pressure pills. It’s funny, I sailed into forty feelin’ on top of the world, I had a couple twenty year old girls chasing me…now I’m going into fifty unemployed and medicated. [laughs]
JG2: What was your job that you got laid off from?
BW: I worked for a fabric company that sells high end stuff. I managed the library and dealt with distributors and stuff. Despite my official title I was sort of a jack of all trades.
JG2: Are there songs you guys in Adrenalin O.D. disagree about playing now? Like songs some of you don’t wanna play that others do?
BW: We err toward the earlier stuff, like [songs from] The Wacky Hijinks of Adrenalin O.D. We’ve never performed any HumungousFungousAmongus deep cuts, we’ve never played anything off Cruising With Elvis In Bigfoot’s UFO…and that last record [Ishtar] is just not discussed. [laughs] Playing that stuff would be like learning a new song.
JG2: AOD has a bit of a jokey reputation. Are you ever aggravated that people don’t take the band more seriously? Because you guys did play way faster than most bands and achieved a pretty unique blur of noise.
BW: Yeah, it’s that weird New Jersey Cancer Alley “Swamps of the Meadowlands” thing that gave us heft. I take good amount of pride in the fact that people from all sorts of different genres namecheck us. On the pop punk side, there’s Screeching Weasel, NOFX, Lifetime, and then there are the thrash bands, like Nuclear Assault…and a couple years ago that Norwegian band Darkthrone was citing us. It’s really, really cool. Not that I’m bragging, but I am fucking bragging.
JG2: What stretch of time in the band was your favorite?
BW: Rolling into HumungousFungous was really good…the tour we did in ’85 that preceded Fungus, we were playing so blisteringly fast, there was a sense of complete mayhem when we played. It’s an amazing feeling to be hitting a chord on guitar and making people go apeshit, it’s just awesome.
JG2: Can you name the worst show AOD ever played?
BW: That’s hard for me to say. [pauses] I’m kinda stumped. Near the end [in the late eighties] when we were limping along we played at the Cat Club [in New York City]—right there, ding ding ding! Alarms shoulda been going off. We were playing with Wild Kingdom, Handsome Dick Manitoba’s band, and they wanted to go on before us. Y’know, using the “We’re old men” excuse. So we let ‘em and then we ended up playing to no one, and my amp kept cutting out. Hmm, maybe that’s just the worst show I played.
JG2: Well, it sounds to me like it was crummy for the whole band.
BW: I’ll tell you another one, maybe this is more what you’re looking for…we played in San Jose with the Exploited and Dag Nasty. Just let that roll around in your head for a second. The venue was just some empty place where a kid said, “Let’s put on show!” There were no permits, no liquor license, no nothin’. There were lots of nazis in the crowd who had their backs turned to the bands and they were all sieg heiling. The Exploited and Dag Nasty got paid but we didn’t. The promoter was nowhere to be found, he just vanished. And, of course, the cops showed up. We ended up driving around later that night to all the pizza places in the area, because we heard the promoter worked at a pizza place and we needed to get paid.
JG2: Did you ever find him?
BW: Hell no!
Top photo credit, according to Bruce: “Some girlfriend, 1986″; lower photo by Ron Akiyama circa the same year (L-R: Jack Steeples, Dave Scott, Bruce, Paul Richards).
Nothing pounds your brain into thin gruel quite like six hours on a plane. Here’s what I can remember from my trip to San Francisco for the Paul Williams tribute at Litquake.
“I wasn’t sure if you were being serious,” remarked my friend Wes as I entered his home, his gaze cocked downward at my electric blue sneakers. Prior notice had been sent out regarding the color of my footwear so I’d be easier to spot amongst the throng waiting for rides at the airport (Wes’s wife Erica was ultimately tasked with retrieving me). I guess this could speak to Wes’s suspicious nature. More likely it speaks to my infamous inability to project authenticity. Still, who would lie about such a thing? What’s to gain from giving your contact false clothing information, especially on the eve of a transit strike? Yeah, just look for the guy in the Big Bird costume. Contrary to popular opinion I did not want to spend my nights in San Francisco sleeping under the Golden Gate Bridge.
That night I had pizza from some generic pie place that didn’t totally offend the Brooklyn pizza snob in me. In fact, it was pretty darn good. Of course I had to go Hawaiian on the toppings, because pineapple is a fruit whose nutritional value is obviously not dulled by layers of molten cheese and slices of ham.
This fanciful dog is typical of the kind you see in San Francisco. You can’t really tell from this angle but he’s wearing a Darth Vader sweater vest.
Bay Area Rapid Transit was officially on strike as of this day, so I caught a ride with Erica over to Amoeba Records, a.k.a. music obsessive mecca. I forgot how overwhelming that warehouse can be. The clearance section for rock CDs alone is the size two regular record stores. The clearance section for rock CDs is so big I actually got physically tired flipping through its racks. Didn’t find anything revelatory in that archive but elsewhere I found cheap as dirt copies of the MC 900 Ft. Jesus disc with “If I Only Had A Brain,” the Angry Samoans album with the graphic head injury on the cover, and some CD-ROM the Meatmen put out in the mid-nineties. Bought all those along with as much Rocket From The Crypt I could carry. Then I walked across the street with my unshowered self and used the facilities at Whole Foods. I looked beyond homeless but the employees remained cordial. They’ve probably seen worse.
“We’re taking you to this place where you’re gonna have the goddamn biggest sandwich of your life!” said Erica after my Amoeba excursion. The eatery in question is called Deli Board and while I’ve had bigger hoagies or grinders or whatever you wanna call ‘em the bastard I ordered (the Zeke; turkey, sprouts, and some other yaz) was mad big n’ tasty. For reasons unknown Wes and Erica both saddled me with their complimentary pickles; not one to waste food, I stuffed the green spears in my pockets and they became my go to snacks for later in the day.
Riding around San Francisco via car is like being on a roller coaster that never gets out of its moderately-paced introductory speed as you cruise up and over utterly ridiculous inclines and around unbelievably sharp curves. It’s one of the neater urban experiences you can have here in the States. Have they already based a Grand Theft Auto on San Fran? If not, they should. Talk about character. Now, this is all coming from a passenger’s perspective. I remember actually having to drive around the city in 2009 and my stress levels piloting a rented vehicle were definitely at Code Morton Downey, Jr.
There is street art all over San Francisco. This Ghostbusters/Simpsons mash-up spaketh (bespoke?) to me.
Dinner (all anyone cares about is food, right?): I met my former Crawdaddy! editor Angie Z in the Mission District for Thai at Thai House 530. Amazing chicken pad thai at that joint, and we managed to get a window seat so we could pretend to be zoo animals for all looking in. It sounds like I’m dissing that table but I’m not; we sat there long after the bill was settled because it was cozy and chill. Topics of conversation included NBA superstar Larry Bird, deceased humorist Michael O’Donoghue, and the Carrie remake (Angie endorses it).
While waiting for Angie to arrive before our meal I was standing around the corner of 18th and Valencia, just minding my own business and probably looking like an out of towner via my trusty Mets cap. A couple rounded the corner; the male, a trim slightly graying gentleman, was deep in explanation with accompanying hand gestures until my sneakers caught his gaze.
“Ooooh,” he said quietly. “Look at those shoes.” His face snapped up to look at me. “I like your shoes!”
“Oh, thanks.” What about the rest of me, big boy?
A subplot I have neglected to mention until now is the fact Wes and Erica were in the midst of preparing to move to Oregon during my stay at their humble abode. Saturday morning they left; luckily three other people live in that house, so it wasn’t just me and the carpet for the rest of the weekend. Two of these residents, Josh and Scott, are guys I know from those years in college I had myself convinced I was the next Mr. T Experience waiting to happen. We all spent a good chunk of this morning waxing nostalgic about the Central Florida punk scene of the Y2K era. We each have our little victories to still brag on (Scott and Josh’s band got on a Sex Pistols tribute album; my band opened for the Nobodys…sure, I had already quit/been canned, but I’m counting it). Josh’s girlfriend Tav cooked a fine brunch of eggs and hash browns and thirty-five pounds of bacon which was all delicious and insured I’d be nice and logy for the rest of the day.
I tried to take a nap before the Paul Williams tribute at Aquarius Records but I was too nervous about having to speak there. Solved this problem by walking to Walgreens and purchasing a couple Mountain Dews. Old habits die hard.
If I were smart I would have gone to Aquarius an hour early so I could thoroughly dig through their stacks. Alas, I am not in Mensa, and I only gave myself fifteen or twenty minutes before the Paul Williams thing to peruse. Aquarius isn’t a terribly big space but they do have tons of totally oddball stuff you gotta take your time to consider. With more time allotted I could have come to better conclusions about the Chinese and Finnish rock sections I flipped through. I also found a copy of Move Back Home by the Queers in the used section but immediate memory failed as to which edition of this album I already own (the original or the deluxe bonus track edition).
Came pretty close to buying the vinyl reissue of the Last House On The Left soundtrack until I remembered I had to transport the thing clear across the country. Potential breakage via clumsy packing and/or airport mishandling scared me off.
My friends have excellent taste in decor. I have near excellent taste in haircuts and Army jackets.
The tribute itself, “Paul Williams’ Greatest Hits,” went pretty well. I felt a little weird speaking because I think I was the only orator who hadn’t known Paul personally, but it seems like I did okay. No one threw rotten garbage at me. I just briefly talked about why Paul Williams is important to me personally and also our culture as a whole. There’s a slight chance I wasn’t speaking anywhere near the microphone for most of what I was saying but I think Aquarius was small/quiet enough to hear anyway. Thanks again to Denise Sullivan for inviting me out to participate in this event. Still honored and humbled to have been included.
We (the speakers) all got V.I.P. passes to Litquake’s after party, so we went to check it out. Open bar at a funky night club is cool, but not as cool as the cheap Mexi-Vietnamese tacos Powered By Pork were selling on the street outside. I was in fusion heaven. Aside from that, the highlight of this after party had to be hearing a few Clem Burke stories. Apparently the drummer from Blondie gets it done, by which I mean he doesn’t ever take no for an answer. So if you think you’re gonna be able to keep Clem Burke out of your son’s bar mitzvah, well, think again.
Super early flight home. Watery orange juice is $4 and change at San Fran’s JetBlue terminal. Worst part of the trip by far.
Thanks again to my hosts in San Francisco and all who came out/met up to party. Be back soon.
I’ll be speaking at this thing tomorrow night. Come celebrate the legacy of Paul with us. Thanks to Yasamine June for making the cool poster. I’d be more loquacious but my brain is stunned from several hours of flight.