Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crushing The Demoniac - Analyzing Side B of Cro-Mags "Best Wishes"

Harley fronting the Cro-Mags, Photo: Ed Esposito

Ok, back here to dissect side B. If you missed my piece on side A, check it out here:

Cro-Mags Best Wishes Side A

Side B of this 8 song LP opens as strong as it possibly could, with the hellraising fireball, "Crush The Demoniac." Perhaps one of the best if not the very best song on here, it's common knowledge that this song was written right around the time of Age Of Quarrel and was often the band's set closer during their '86/'87 tours. Harley has revealed that while his lyrics to this are significantly different from whatever John Joseph's lyrics were (Harley says he has no idea what John was singing live), musically it was recorded pretty much true to its original form.

Best Wishes era Cro-Mags, Photo: Ed Esposito

The song opens and immediately puts you up against the ropes - I've always loved how it kicks off (although I will say that I wish they opened the song on the record in the exact same way they did often live in '86/'87 with a slightly different notes/accenting after the first few crashes - the best example of this is on that Live At Wellington's recording). The main riff of the verse is said to have been written by Doug Holland, and was the first riff he contributed to the band (which I found pretty surprising, although I guess AOQ was already written by the time he joined up). You'll also note the similarity to Maiden's "Aces High" in this riff. Great stuff.

At 2:02 Holland (and I'm guessing it is him since he played it live) takes off with one of the best solos on the album, his shredding getting fiercer as the energy builds. The video of him playing this at the Ritz is one of the best things ever captured on film and audio - it just sounds demented - John even talked about this in his book I believe. If I ever won the powerball and had limitless time and money to devote to anything I wanted, I would pay someone to give me the ability to play this part and I would just walk around all day playing it in people's faces.

A shredding Parris Mayhew with the Cro-Mags, Photo: Ed Esposito

At 2:25 the solo ends and it goes back to just rhythm shredding and fast picking, like an eighteen wheeler blasting down the high way at 100mph with no brakes, and it's filled with fireworks. There's more great riffage at 2:50 for a few seconds, and then BOOOM! - yep, you're moshing. They could have just ended the song and it would have been more than adequate, but no. Instead they drop a siiiiick mid-tempo mosh part that further explodes at 3:36 for the perfect set closer/outro feel. Because of that, it almost seems like this is the song that should end the just goes out on such a peak.

Nonetheless, there's still three more songs, as "Fugitive" kicks things off next. While I had never heard of the Mags playing this song in '86/'87 with John in the band, Harley has said it was written during that time period by Parris with some of Harley's own riff ideas. It definitely is more melodic and "soulful" (did I just call a Cro-Mags song soulful?) than most of the other songs on here, although the choruses aggro out quite a bit.

Harley Mags, Photo: Ed Esposito

I love Harley's bass work on I think I mentioned before, he has such an evil bass sound on this, I feel like he has a stack of cabs the size of The Green Monster, all cranked on 11 and he is playing in an airport hangar. It sounds huge, overdriven, and live, but I'm no bass player so I'm sure my tech talk could be way off. I wish Pincus got this same sound from Normandy on Bringin' It Down, but that's a different story.

Anyways, around 2:55 Harley's playing really takes off as he throws in a lot of cool little runs and fills that really beef the song up and show that he was/is a legit player (something I don't think is mentioned enough). The rest of the song has a good sense of urgency, like it is really gonna take off...but then it just kinda dies out and ends with a big drum roll/rock crescendo ending. It's a good song, but has always felt like it had untapped potential.

Doug Holland and Parris, Photo: Ed Esposito

"Then And Now" kicks off a great Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Kram- ummm...I mean, the songs kicks off with some busy bass work into straight metal riffing. Harley has said the bass intro was his version of "The Exorcist" done in a harder metal style...but I still always hear "Seinfeld bass" when it comes on. I like the idea, but the whole way the song takes off is my least favorite opening to any song here, it's a little too daring a little too metal for me. How the song starts though is actually a total pump fake, because shit busts open at :53 with some great ring out chords and strong energy straight into the chorus. I love the mosh teaser at 1:24 where they let up and slow it down for a moment, and just when you start to do the face-rake, it's back to thrashing. I always wish they extended that and rocked it out, but I guess the brevity of it is what makes it fast and cool.

Harley again kills it with sick bass lines (of course nobody here is a slouch when it comes to ability). It should again be noted that while seeing Mackie off of this record is a bummer, Pete Hines is unstoppable. Lots of tricky time signatures and changes, simply put there's nothing novice about his skills on da traps. While the song generally is solid and has some rager moments, it still gets a little ADD, jams out towards the end, ditches the vocals and solos, and then just wraps up. Like "Fugitive," I feel like the potential for this song is in fact a bit untapped.

Harley rocks the Raiders, Photo: Ed Esposito

Last but not least: "Age Of Quarrel." I'm not sure the whole intro is as much an intro as it is a notice of your upcoming beheading. It's not the first mosh part I think of when I think of the Cro-Mags, but it's still a hell of a mosh part - military drum roll, death knell bass strumming, funeral procession guitar work...heavy. It builds up perfectly into the verse where Harley starts singing. The stop/start tempo around the 1:58 mark lasts just long enough before building up again, and then it's basically back and forth riffing until finally at 3:37 they are just like "ok, everyone...kill each other, NOW."

Fittingly so, things close out on a very dark note. After all, the song is called "Age Of Quarrel" and I think we all know the underlying message here. If this record came out after Goodfellas (1990), an appropriate soundclip right after the music ends would have been the voice of Vinnie when Tommy gets whacked that says, "And that's that."

Parris with the Mags and a great Best Wishes shirt, Photo: Ed Esposito

In general, it's also worth noting again how blatantly Krishna-fueled this whole record is, from the cover artwork to the lyrics...I mean, it's super heavy and nothing about it is subtle. The cover art (Lord Nrsimhadeva killing the Demon Hiranyakasipu) is so brutal and fitting...I've never really dabbled with the KC stuff too extensively but that image makes me want to shave up and chant 16 rounds immediately.

Also, considering the Bloodclot departure and the metal alliances, one would expect these would just be songs on standard metal topics - NOT vegetarianism, reincarnation, extreme spiritual devotion, and escaping the material world. A band like Shelter may have brought prasadam and beads to every young HC kid in the country in the early 90s, but the Cro-Mags basically wrote a thrashing metal record with direct, no compromise, in-your-face lyrical inspiration from the Gita. Pretty wild.

More Harley, More Raiders, Photo: Ed Esposito

Musically, there are parts here that drag a bit, some aspects that could have used some more thought and production, and some general metal influence that maybe didn't gel perfectly, but the overall end result to me is in fact a pretty relentless metal record with a LES hardcore backbone covered in tattoos. "Death Camps" and "Crush The Demoniac" on their own are better than 97.8% of all recorded music ever, so it's kinda tough to be too critical when I really stop and think about it.

Then again I also like Near Death Experience and Alpha Omega to varying degrees as well, so maybe I'm not the proper authority.

Either way...they came, they saw, they conquered. The Cro-Mags.

Best Wishes,
Gordo DCXX

Harley with some pre set prep Cro-Mags style, Photo: Ed Esposito

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Favorite Dag Nasty album results

A Peter Cortner fronted Dag Nasty at City Gardens, Trenton NJ, Photo: Ken Salerno

In 1987, two of my favorite bands were Agent Orange and Dag Nasty. I can't even begin to tell you how many times I listened to Agent Orange "When You Least Expect it" and both of the Dag albums (Can I say and Wig Out) that year and the years that followed. For Agent Orange it was the skate connection, seeing and hearing them in the Skate Visions video made me an instant fan. With Dag Nasty, it was those powerful, polished, rocked out, hardcore songs that were sung with such sincerity and emotion. I heard "Can I Say" first, but "Wig Out at Denkos" not too long after and for whatever reason, the switch over from Smalley to Cortner on vocals was a total non-issue for me.

When I had heard that both Agent Orange and Dag Nasty were playing together at City Gardens, here in Trenton New Jersey, I felt like the veins in my head were going to explode and my brain was just going to melt. I was stoked to put it lightly. It was a Sunday in July of 1988, the Field Day tour. I rolled out to the show with my friend Tony Rettman and his brother Don who was the City Gardens DJ. Any shows that I went to with Don, we always got there early and I'd usually get into the club before the doors opened because I was with Tony and Don. I remember getting in and seeing the Dag Nasty merch being set up. They were selling the Field Day tour shirt and the legendary Dag Tags (Dag Nasty dog tags) and I wanted everything. Problem was, I didn't have more than three dollars in my pocket, so I was shit out of luck.

The mighty Dave Smalley with Dag Nasty at City Gardens, Trenton NJ, Photo: Ken Salerno

Now I know Dag Nasty didn't exactly have the greatest reputation by the time Field Day was released and I know a fair amount of fans were disappointed with Field Day, but none of that affected this show that night. The place was packed solid with skins, punks, metal heads, skaters, freaks, preppies, straight edge kids, this was a show for all kinds. Shoulder to shoulder, everyone was crammed into that place and me being the easily intimidated 14 year old straight edge skate punk that I was, I wasn't about to push through that fearsome looking crowd to make my way to the front of the stage. Instead I found a safe spot about four or five rows back and settled their for Dag's set.

As for Dag's set, it was friggin' flawless. They played a little bit of everything and played it all perfectly. Hearing Cortner belt out those Can I Say classics was amazing, as was hearing the Wig Out material. The crowd seemingly knew every word, with the exception of some of the Field Day material, which had been recently released a handful of months prior. I remember being in awe of just how tiny Doug Carrion was and being amazed at seeing Brain Baker from Minor Threat with long hair. I was in a state of euphoria standing there witnessing all of this and at that moment in time, there was absolutely no where else I would have rather been.

Peter Cortner and a flipping Underdog shirt wearing fan at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

Agent Orange closed out the night and as much as I loved them, they hardly compared to what Dag Nasty had just delivered. I definitely didn't have enough money for a Dag tour shirt, but I remember bugging Tony to let me borrow money to buy myself some Dag Tags. Tony wasn't budging though, he thought the Dag Tags were cheesy and kept telling me that I didn't want those things. Damn Tony… 21 years later I still want those Dag Tags!

On our way out of the club I remember stopping to talk to a couple of straight edge kids about the Revelation Records The Way It Is comp that had just been released. One of those dudes was Rob Mars from Crucial Youth, who was also doing a band called In Touch. Thinking back, little did I know at the time what was about to be unleashed on me with that The Way It Is comp that I would be picking up the following week. I guess you could say 1988 was an interesting year for music… maybe that's a bit of an understatement.

More Smalley, more Dag, more City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

As for Dag Nasty, they're still one of my favorite bands and both Can I Say and Wig Out are two of my favorite records of all time. If I could have voted for both records I definitely would have, but because I had to pick one, I went with Can I Say. Looks like I wasn't the only one. -Tim DCXX

Doug Carrion with all his Molly Ringwald fandom, Photo: Ken Salerno

Dag Nasty - Can I Say - 314
Dag Nasty - Wig Out at Denko's - 47
Dag Nasty - Field Day - 32
Dag Nasty - Four on the Floor - 13
Dag Nasty - Minority of One - 8

Brian Baker and Doug Carrion with Dag Nasty at City Gardens, Photo: Ken Salerno

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jon Biviano - Supertouch

Biv and Mark Ryan with Supertouch at the Anti-Matter Book Release show, 11/24/2007, Photo: Sean Lewis

Biv is easily one of my favorite guitarists in all of music - period. Having played most famously in Supertouch, Biv has a guitar sound that is totally his own, and a style that distinguishes him from almost anyone else in hardcore. This is the beginning of a very long overdue interview with the man himself. Go listen to the opening swells at the beginning of "Engine" if any refresher is needed. Genius. -Gordo DCXX

Ok, I first started playing guitar when I was 9 years old, around 1978-79. It's strange, because I grew up in a very strict home. My father was a heavy disciplinarian, but insistent on his children being well educated and well rounded. There was a piano in our house which I refused to even touch, so my Dad bought me an acoustic guitar and sent me to lessons at a local music store.

Well, I learned some basic stuff but eventually quit after a few months. This is strange too, because I was really fascinated with electric guitar. However, there was no way my father was going to get me an electric guitar. He hated any rock music from the Beatles up to the present moment. This had quite an effect on me.

Biv driving the Engine, Photo:
Sean Lewis

You see, my Dad was so against current music and I was so mesmerized by it. In 1976, a cousin bought me Destroyer, by Kiss. My Dad eventually took it away from me. He said it was making me do poorly in school. I'll admit he was right. I was far more interested in Rock than anything else.

I vividly remember the commercial for 'The Kids are Alright' in 1979. Pete Townsend holding the Les Paul over his head and smashing it down on the stage. Or seeing briefly on the news, clips of Kiss, Ted Nugent, Led Zeppelin, or even the Sex Pistols. Seeing things like this had such an effect on me, while my Dad would cuss and swear at the TV and say what a bunch of losers these people were.

Along with visual stimulation, the electric guitar sound always had a physical effect on me. It would move me to feel emotions I couldn't explain. My stomach would get butterflies, I'd get goosebumps. I would feel empowered and fearful at the same time. Here's an example: When I was about 6 or 7 years old, my Mum had a vinyl copy of Godspell, the musical. In the Finale when Jesus is crucified there's this wailing crazy guitar solo. I listened to that, and only that until the vinyl was so scratched up it wouldn't play correctly anymore.

A Supertouch DCXX sing along at the Anti-Matter show, Photo:
Sean Lewis

Then, the thing that sent me over the edge and made me want to really learn the guitar was hearing AC/DC in 1980. I talked my Mum into buying me 'If You Want Blood' one night when we were at the local mall. It was for $4.76. That was the record that put me on this path. That was the record that made me want to go back to lessons.

Also in 1979, my parents divorced. My father seemed to become even more strict and I started to become a very introverted kid. Don't get me wrong, I played sports in my town (Little League Baseball and Soccer) and I had friends. However, I wasn't a good student so I was always grounded and under house arrest it seemed. The only thing I had was that acoustic guitar. I worked with that thing constantly to learn everything I could.

So, I chose the guitar because it made me feel powerful and good. But it wasn't totally a cry for attention. I was obsessed with this thing, or more so under a spell. I still am.

To be continued...

Biv and Mark with Supertouch, Photo: Sean Lewis

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Steve Risteen - Slap Shot

Steve Risteen with Slap Shot at The Rat, Boston Mass, Photo: Cybele Parsignault

There are so many great show memories, it is hard to pick one. But, a stand out would be one of the many times we played with the Bad Brains and I kept having a guitar problems, I think it was the amp. I turn to try and fix it and Dr. Know was already on it. Yes, Dr. Know of the Bad Brains was my roadie for a few minutes. That was cool.

Choke and Steve with Slap Shot, Photo: Brian Boog

Steve Risteen on tour with Slap Shot, Hamburg Germany 1991, Photo courtesy of: Steve Risteen

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The artwork of Shawn Kerri continued

DCXX contributor Agent A's entry on the artwork of Shawn Kerri hit such a home run, that we're back with a handful more of Shawn's work. These flyers were contributed by DCXX reader / Germs fanatic, Ben Alvie. Thanks Ben! -Tim DCXX

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The BOLD intro

Matt gets surrounded in a singalong by the Anthrax crowd, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

Not everyone loves BOLD. Some people think Speak Out is terribly recorded. Some are just downright scathing in their criticism of this band and anyone who is a fan. On top of that, I've been told that I give this band way too much attention and that I've already written too much. But having done Double Cross for a year and a half now, and to have never really mentioned much about Speak Out (one of my favorite hardcore LPs), I'm going to give myself a pass here.

Speak Out is in fact a weird record. The packaging and whole design of the record is one of the greatest ever. The gatefold layout is splashed with bright color, animated action shots, big slogans, and is essentially a design template for how to perfect the look of a SEHC band's album (unfortunately many bands would subsequently also cheezifer, bastardize, and butcher this great style). But here, it is crisp, clean, loud, and well...bold. One would expect the music to have production value on par with something like Screaming For Change - real bright, cutting, clear, and heavy, but yet "heavy" mainly by virtue of the power of the songs themselves.

In actuality, the record sounds like it was recorded underwater in an old pillow (and is not anything like Break Down The Walls, despite the same studio, same drummer, and similar time period). I got car sick once, and I started to feel like maybe I was upside down and had a vice closing up on my intestines and had huffed ether, and even though I was half out of it and doubled over, it dawned on me, "wow, Speak Out is the sonic equivalent of how I am feeling right now." For songs that are uplifting in message and pretty driving, the whole vibe is super depressing and unstable.

Zulu and Tim Brooks all Niked out at CBGB's, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

There's some other weirdness surrounding the record: Matt's voice is totally different than I have ever heard on live audio (it sounds like a pubescent voice where shit gets really deep and awkward before maturing and evening out, and the Cappo influence is strong), the back-up vocals I am convinced are slowed down (or they got carny neanderthals to do them), the guitar tones are generally underdriven and marshmellow-like, and Drew's drums (snare included) are basically all detuned to the same general note, ending up with a resonance that you would also achieve by hitting drum sticks on a dusty boot.

Still, sometimes I put it on and it sounds like a hard, raw recording that I talk myself into digging. After all, the songs are classic, awesome BOLD tunes, some of the best hardcore songs ever written. Other times I give it a spin and start falling asleep and taking Xanax while livejournaling about rare demos for My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless." In a nutshell, my overall opinion on the recording is day-to-day.

One song on here which I think is absolutely perfect sounding for this Electric Reels recording is the INTRO, which opens Side B and segways into Change Within (a GREAT song with such a killer ending). It blows my mind that people don't love this intro. Even more, I have heard people say they think this is "the worst intro of all time," and similar things. Seriously? To quote Mr. Hand, "what are you people? On dope?!" If I think about this too long I can feel my blood pressure rise and my eyes get really squinty.

Drew carries the BOLD beat, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

But yeah, the Intro...anyone who loves this and "gets" it always talks about how it is simultaneously brooding and's like the soundtrack for a gang of Straight Edge warriors riding into the majestic night on white stallions and jumping over a moat because the enemy has destroyed the drawbridge. It seems like it could be played by suburban high school kids from middle class New York State, but only in the dead of winter at 1am in a dirty club with the lights turned completely off while each member of the band is really pissed at one another.

In fact, there are some videos in existence of BOLD playing this live. One that comes to mind is from summer 1988 (pre-LP release) at the YesterYears (or at least that's what I always thought it was called) in California. They do it as a five piece with Porcell and Al Brown on guitars. This is the same show Underdog played (cover of the "Demos" LP) with Hard Stance and Chain Of Strength (one of their very first shows). In the video, BOLD opens with it and just erupts. It's a little loose, but the energy is awesome...Alex Brown is going off, the SoCal crowd is skanking like crazy, the Sloth Crew is piling on top of one another and rocking out on stage. It's a great video to track down.

Crippled Youth era Tim Brooks, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

Another video where BOLD opens with this intro is about six months later with Tom Capone and Zulu (wearing sunglasses) on guitars at The Anthrax on January 7, 1989. In this video Drew is excessively using double bass (Sammy's kit), and things are a bit sloppy, but it's a crowd favorite and sounds ultra heavy.

What I love about the intro is that when combined with the THC-laden murky production, it sounds so desolete and ugly. I mean, let's get real here, I'm not making it out to sound like this is some obscure Scandanvian black metal record with a purposly "craaaazy" dirty analog production. The reality is these guys got a bum recording by accident. But considering the clean and glossy look of the LP layout and what everyone thinks of the band and their whole image, the recording and the actual Intro music is pretty effed sounding and still a head scratcher (again considering Youth Of Today came away significantly better only months prior at the same joint).

The point of my writing this: go listen to the Intro! Even in light of the sound quality, the Intro is such a disrespected piece of hardcore gold that works perfectly on this record. Maybe it won't wind up in the same breath as We Gotta Know or Rise And Fall, but it is still awesome. I've always been more of a stage diver than a mosher, but years later, every time I hear this, I want to mosh.

Matt and Zulu with BOLD at the Anthrax, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

*If it turns out you don't like BOLD and I just wasted your time, allow me to leave you with this bit of greatness from Anchorman so as to redeem myself:

Brian Fantana: [about Veronica] I'll give this little cookie an hour before we're doing the no-pants dance. Time to musk up.
[opens cologne cabinet]
Ron Burgundy: Wow. Never ceases to amaze me. What cologne you gonna go with? London Gentleman, or wait. No, no, no. Hold on. Blackbeard's Delight.
Brian Fantana: No, she gets a special cologne... It's called Sex Panther by Odeon. It's illegal in nine countries... Yep, it's made with bits of real panther, so you know it's good.
Ron Burgundy: It's quite pungent.
Brian Fantana: Oh yeah.
Ron Burgundy: It's a formidable scent... It stings the nostrils. In a good way.
Brian Fantana: Yep.
Ron Burgundy: Brian, I'm gonna be honest with you, that smells like pure gasoline.
Brian Fantana: They've done studies, you know. 60% of the time it works, every time.
[cheesy grin]
Ron Burgundy: That doesn't make sense.
Brian Fantana: Well... Let's go see if we can make this little kitty purr.

-Gordo DCXX

BOLD in Rhode Island, with Alex Brown and Porcell stage side, 1988, Photo courtesy of: Matt Warnke

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shawn Kerri Artwork: Dancin’ and Desk-Top Doodles!

Our heavy-hitting contributor AGENT A delivers the goods again! -Gordo DCXX

Here’s where a true talent speaks a thousand words (and kicks off a “One-Two-Three! GO!!!!”) with a brush of her pen. By the fantastic Shawn Kerri, below are some of her incredible, bursting out of the page (or screen, or flyer, or cover of a record) works. I can’t tell you the number of times I failed at trying to draw a slam-dancin’ Skank Guy on loose leaf in Junior High and it ending up looking like an awkward alien David Letterman-faced Michelin Man on an unhealthily severe diet falling down invisible stairs. While I wholeheartedly encourage doodling, especially if the subject is something like flying saucers attacking Earth (to the Rezillos!!) or stage dives, sometimes it is better to leave the punk artwork to the guys and ladies (like Shawn) with the real goods.

(Quick note: I understand there are all sorts of stories about her and what happened to “ownership” of the image of the Skank Guy. I don’t know the first hand accounts or all of what is involved so I won’t comment, but I do know who’s hand and mind CREATED the energetic little guy, so let’s just celebrate this fantastic artist and spread the word about her, even if it is sadly after she’s gone.)

I swear, just a quick glimpse at the potentially Mad Magazine PERFECTION of Ms. Kerri’s work is enough to make me want to start a pit with the furniture and view the world as the comic book cartoon that it often truly is. I’m probably not on my own in being someone to have read dog-eared 60’s and 70’s (and 80’s) Mad Magazines found for fifty cents from a local used book shop. A great thing that great punk rock can have in common with the best of old Mad (hey….wait, “M.A.D.”… YES!! Now I have to go put on some BL’AST!!!!!!) magazines: that bullshit-detector on the “adult” world, that turns hypocrisy and “seriousness” on its head with the funhouse mirror of satire. Even if it is an unintentional (sometimes even unknowing?) turning upside-down.

I don’t know if Ms. Kerri was a Mad reader, but her artwork sure connected the comics,*all* comics, that I read and the hardcore punk world (and for that matter, the outside world as well). Larger-than-life caricatures and events made so much more sense with a soundtrack and a comic page context to put them in; like living in a real-life B-Movie. And so the stories of danger, laughter, heroics, close-calls, treasures found (like a Raw Power LP at a garage sale amidst Barry Manilow and Triumph records), romance, and action all seemed that much more, well, FUN as well. I’m not the first to say punk rock (or for that matter, this whole sometimes ridiculous planet) can be like a comic book come to life, but it kinda is sometimes, isn’t it?

All this is to say when music or images can hit the hardest is when the two combine like epoxy glue in your brain, one making the other even more “real”, with even more impact. In other words, at least for me, it is as if you can HEAR what the song playing would sound like to match the explosion of movement in Shawn Kerri’s drawings.

I know each reader of Double Cross will have their own take on Shawn Kerri’s art. I can say for myself that I am coming from the place of a fan. As in, for my own mind, for what it’s worth, I speak her name with the same excitement as other pen-and-ink, pencil-and-brush builders of incredible worlds well worth the adventure of visiting. A fast few in that breath would definitely be Wally Wood (and 1950’s EC horror and science fiction!), Jim Steranko, Ed Repka, Michael Whelan (those H.P. Lovecraft book did he come back from Unknown Kadath alive?!!), Basil Gogos, whoever did those 1980’s mosh-it-up CBGB’s flyers that make you want to put on boots and an AF cassette and dive off of concrete walls, Derek Riggs, Sergio Aragon├ęs, Jack Davis, (Conan!) Ernie Chan, and yes, Shawn Kerri.

Here’s to her and her creations, and also to the multitude of kids who picked up those dance moves (the last one in the series is my favorite), or got a smile from her take on punk rock. Now, get ready to March Into the 80’s!! (And hey, in honor of Shawn, hit that dance floor with some skank moves the next time you’re in the pit.)
- Agent A.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Billy Rubin wraps-up the Dan O spoken word

Poster for the Dan O spoken word, Photo: Bill Case

When I heard that Dan O’Mahoney was doing a spoken word performance in 2009 my first thought was…Why? As I pondered that question I found myself questioning my own motives for questioning the event. Who am I to judge someone’s motives that has the balls to get up on stage and do anything? In my eyes I have to ask “What the fuck have you done?”

The real question that I came to ask…Is it going to be any good? I’m not an authority on spoken word, poetry or even performance art so if I am going to be as critical of myself as I could be of Dan, Popeye and Evan, then I have to admit that all I really know about spoken word is Rollins. I could rant on and on about how the Rollins’ material from Family Man was cutting edge, intimidating, etc., but I won’t. I listened to it again recently and…Well, I have probably become even more cynical and certainly more conservative over the last 20 years. I realize I am rambling now so the point of all this is to give you an idea of my point of view regarding the event at the Ugly Mug on September 17th, 2009. If you are expecting to read a review of an earth shattering, ground breaking event then you can stop now.

The Ugly Mug, Photo: Bill Case

On Thursday, September 17th I caught an afternoon flight into John Wayne airport specifically to see my old friend (Dan) perform a spoken word performance. I had made a deal with another old friend, Bill Case, that if he picked me up from my hotel, drove me to (and from) the show, I’d buy him dinner and pay for his ticket. Bill has previous experience carting me around. Back in the mid 80’s he drove me (and 1000 Crippled Youth 7” records) to Davis California. In the lead up to this event many friends and I speculated that there were two possible outcomes:

One, the performances would be embarrassing and therefore be pure entertainment.

Two, that we’d actually be impressed.

The one thing that was certain is that the people that planned on attending made the event worth going to. Old friends ranging from Doc Robinson to Pat Longrie to Ron Martinez made this a must. That also meant that whoever was performing that night had a really tough crowd. Seriously…Would you want to get up and do a spoken word in front of a bunch of old punk rock has-beens (myself included)? “To risk we must (not), because the Dan who risks nothing has a successful legacy as a front man in many good bands.”

The event was held at a coffee shop called the Ugly Mug. The Ugly Mug is an old 2 story California Bungalow run by a cranky guy who lives upstairs. My guess is the main draw to the place is the seemingly endless parade of cute college girls that walk past the place all day. Inside there is some beat up furniture, very little lighting, dusty old ceiling fans and no AC. For the event they had set up folding chairs and it looked like it could hold about 50 people. Good thing because it sold out at $5 a pop.

Dan's books, Photo: Bill Case

The MC of the event was Andrew “Jake” Jacobs who was obviously a bit nervous but did a hell of a job all the same. Andrew first introduced his brother Evan. If you’ve met Evan before then there is nothing I can tell you that you don’t already know. Evan is some kind of savant. I’m not sure what planet he is from, but it must be a great place to visit. Evan is a filmmaker whose releases include things like "An Apology From Hitler." This evening he was showing a cut from a near completed film called Hardcore Scenester that documented Evan’s baptism into the Orange County hardcore scene from 1990 to 1997. I was shocked that there was a scene between 1990 and 1997 but found myself laughing at Evan’s crazy antics interlaced with sound bites from Zack, Dan and Big Frank with an occasional Joe Nelson ala Beastie Boys “Sabotage-ish” slice of homemade footage. For me, the highlight of the film was an animated fight between Dan and Big Frank. In fact, Evan if you read this please donate that clip to DCXX for a future post.

After Evan and another small dose of Andrew Jacobs came Popeye. I really don’t know Popeye at all and I don’t know if I ever saw Farside so I was very curious what his performance was going to be. Popeye came on stage sporting a spiffy tie and an acoustic guitar. His performance consisted of a handful of songs that he introduced with a bit of commentary to set the stage. The running theme was that Popeye is now divorced after getting caught cheating on his (then) wife. I suspect there is still a lot of pain there which was not really part of this show. It was much more lighthearted. Popeye obviously has talent as both a singer and a guitar player and I’ll bet that if he were to do this again he’d do it even better than he did that night. I can’t even imagine myself giving a solo performance about a serious topic in front of an intimate crowd of my peers. That’s what Popeye did.

Popeye doing his thing, Photo: Bill Case

The headliner of the event was Dan O’Mahoney. Dan’s spoken word delivery was kind of like when he sang live. He held the mike the same way. The cord wrapped a few times around. He paced uncomfortably across the stage. Because Dan mentioned me in his performance (comparing me to the “Jar Jar Binks of the hardcore scene”) I feel entitled to pick on Dan a bit. My fear of Dan’s performance is that his ego would eclipse the intellect I’ve recognized since 1984. I was pleasantly surprised. Dan demonstrated a level of humility that obviously comes from learning things the absolute hardest way. He mixed up his set to include old material and new. Some of the highlights that stood out included a story about losing a fight with his friend and band member on a No For An Answer tour in Europe. Dan also talked about some old hardcore icons including Pat Dubar and Pat Longrie. The Pat Longrie story was great because ½ hour later Longrie subconsciously did (to me) the exact thing Dan mentioned in his performance! By the way, great to see you PatRICK!

Dan O speaks, Photo: Bill Case

The story that got me the most is one where Dan talked about his interaction with his alcoholic, addict father. The basis of the story was Dan wondering how his dad was not able to notice that Dan was having the same life problems as his father. Drinking, brawling, making bad choices and then hiding from the consequences and avoiding being honest with his own father. Maybe even hoping his father would notice what Dan was hiding. Hoping his father would save him from himself. I’ve been to many hardcore shows and I’ve never heard that kind of honesty about something so personal, devoid of ego. Dan proved that after all these years he still has the ability to keep me listening.

After the performances everyone went outside and hung out for about a half hour. Good times were had by all. One by one people left but a handful of people went to a bar afterward to have diet Cokes. I think that’s what straight edge adults drink. Hell, I dunno. My ride back to my hotel was turning into a pumpkin so I didn’t make it to the bar. Back at my hotel I pondered the event and have to say that overall it was a great evening. There was nothing life changing. No one is quitting their day jobs just yet. The next morning I caught a flight home and reclaimed my life. It’s good to know that after 20 years we can come together and have a good time.

John Mastropolo, Pat Longrie and Billy Rubin catching up, Photo: Bill Case