Thought I'd challenge you to start off the new year with a rather lengthy post. Pace yourself and it may last you through all of 2009....
Somehow back in the 80’s I acquired a number of albums from bands with “meat” in their name. It probably started with the Meat Puppets. Added a Meatmen (NSFW) record. I’m sure a Meat Loaf record regrettably found it’s way through my collection. And finally I discovered a little indie record with a handmade album cover from an odd ensemble calling themselves Meat Joy. Since then I’ve added some mp3’s from The Meat Purveyors, but I’m not counting those – vinyl only.
But I digress. Everyone knows that I review the annual Lovehammers New Year’s Eve show for my first post of the year. Even when I’m not there. Unfortunately, I seemed to have rankled a few hungover Hammerheads last year because I guess they were expecting an actual review of the show (what were they thinking?) including a set list and pictures of Marty. Because we know there aren’t enough of those out there.
So here’s my review. The lines for drinks were too long. Dot Dot Dot was annoying, but everyone was too drunk and paid too much to care. The Lovehammers rocked even though they haven’t played together in several years. And lots of women held up their cellphones all night either giving cell-certs to their far away friends or taking crappy cellphone pictures.
As you can see I’m generally cranky and don’t like people so I don’t have many friends. Even my wife left town for the week so she wouldn’t have to ring in the new year from the shadows of my disdain. So I hopped in the Sid-Mobile and drove up to Madison, home of The University of Wisconsin and unknowing coeds. The Sid-Mobile is kind of like the Batmobile except it doesn’t go as fast and doesn’t have nearly as many options. But it gets bitchin’ mileage, so cut me some slack.
The High Noon Saloon in Madison was hosting a bevy of bands, including my buddies The Von Ehrics. I could go up there and bug them as much or as little as I liked, hear some new music, do some people watching, and be otherwise free of any social niceties or responsibilities.
I rolled into town a little early so I could grab a bite to eat, and decided to check out the Brass Ring joint next door. It just happened that Gabe and Jeffery were there playing pool, so I caught up with them and ordered a Madtown burger for my last supper (of the year). It was a little light on the advertised Canadian bacon and if that had truly been my last supper I probably would have been pissed. Even Jesus might have sent it back. Also a little pricey, but not enough to get their High Life confiscated.
Eventually we headed over to the Saloon where the band gave the doorman the thumb pointed in my direction. I thought that they were possibly issuing a club restraining order against me, but as it turned out, in a moment of holiday charity they had deemed me worthy of “the list” and saved me the $12 cover. They must have also vouched that I was indeed 21 years of age as I didn’t have to show my ID even though I don’t look a day over 56.
We had missed the first band – The Hussy. A two-piece with a girl on drums and a guy on guitar, prompting obvious comparisons to, yes, The Carpenters. You know, assuming that Richard played guitar instead of piano. Sounds original – I hope it works out for them.
As I was hanging out at the bar, a guy caught my eye. Not because I’m gay, but because he was wearing Chuck Taylors. And overalls shorts that were too small for him. And makeup including lots of eye glitter. I was both hoping and fearing that he was part of the next band. Hoping that this wasn’t some random patron’s NYE ensemble, but fearing I would have to watch a band that included him. Sensing my unease, the guys invited me back to the green room, a small room next to the stage about the size of a foosball table. Where we were soon joined by overalls guy and a cast of other assorted characters gathering up props such as balloons, homemade train car cutouts, and foam disc shooters. I’m sure The Von Ehrics have seen lots of stuff on the road but as overalls guy bent over to tie up his shoes, I’m pretty sure it was the first time Jason has had a guy wearing glitter makeup and singing show tunes shaking his ass in his face. At least I hope it was. I also got to see a girl change clothes from a 50’s style homecoming dress into a ninja outfit. Even I can’t make this shit up.
After hearing a few songs from the green room, I left the guys to plan their set list and decided to check out Screaming Cyn Cyn and the Pons. Surprisingly, I was not as annoyed as I was entertained. It was as if you took the B-52’s, mixed in an episode of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and added a touch of Devo and the Suburban Lawns. I actually enjoyed the Cyn Cyn’s song Set The Table and wish I had it on video. Oh, wait, the magic of youtube. I don’t think I’d drive two hours to Madison to see them again, but if they were playing in the neighborhood and there weren’t any good games on TV I might venture out to see them. And I'd definitely show up if Cyn Cyn set a spot at the table for me.
Next on the bill was Ouija Radio. I had high expectations for this band – pretty cool name, normal looking drummer, white-guy dreads on the bass player, and a Leather Tuscadero for the new millennium on guitar and vocals. And they pretty much delivered some straight-ahead, high energy, in your face rock and roll. If they had been playing Arnold’s Drive-In down the road in Milwaukee, the Fonz would have approved and probably taken front-woman Christy Hunt out after the show. Then there would have been the emotional episode where she has to leave town to tour in support of the new Von Bondies record, but the Fonz has to be cool with it because music is her passion. And rhythm is the dancer.
The Von Ehrics were up next and here is another thing I love about them. They pretty much booked the show knowing that they wouldn’t have their equipment with them. They had flown to Madison the week before to record their new record for Crustacean so only had one guitar, one bass, and a bag of drumsticks. They knew they could depend on the generosity of their fellow musicians to hook them up, and the other bands on the bill proved them right. It was a regular Hallmark moment. I shed a tear but I think it was just the smoke hanging in the air.
As they were setting up someone alerted Jason that midnight was approaching so he improvised a countdown using his cellphone and probably got it within a minute or so of the actual time. He ain’t Dick Clark, but these days neither is Dick Clark.
I was forewarned that the set had the potential to be a train wreck as they hadn’t played since the summer, but other than a couple small hiccups I couldn’t tell the difference. It’s not like they were playing for the admissions committee at Julliard. They were playing a loud and fast set for a bunch of drunks that wanted to ring in the new year loudly and fastly. Done deal. Even a group that looked as if it had been delivered from The Island of Misfit Revelers had formed a wonderfully dorky pseudo-moshpit. If you want more details on a Von Ehrics show, check out my extremely long-winded, wildly digressing post on their 2007 World Tour. Otherwise just trust me when I tell you not to miss them if they come to your town, and even better, buy them a beer and be sure to introduce yourself. Also make sure they have a place to crash, and while you’re at it buy a CD and a t-shirt so they can fill their tank with gas. It’s very little to ask before Miley Cyrus takes over this fucked up world.
The little green room was getting crowded with the ghost of New Year’s bands past, present and future, so I made sure not to overstay my welcome and stayed out in the bar to check out the next set from Brainerd. Was Paranoid in your album collction in the 70’s? Do you still have it? Was playing Metallica at your wedding reception part of the negotiations with your ex-wife? Are you still mourning the loss of Dimebag Darrell? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’d probably feel right at home at a Brainerd show. I can’t tell you the difference between thrash metal, death metal, black metal, power metal, doom metal and precious metal, but Beavis and Butthead would approve and would probably steal a Brainerd t-shirt.
By this time the remaining revelers were more sauced than the crowd at the annual La Tomatina tomato fight. A guy in a Packers touque stumbled up to me and just stared at me as if he were trying to figure out whether I was a streetlight or Shania Twain. Immediately thereafter a girl walked right into me as if I weren’t an obstacle that needed to be avoided. Had I not been there she surely would have walked into the pole behind me. She stopped, grabbed my arm, tapped my beer bottle and pointed it toward my face and then wandered toward the door. Another girl was passed out on the pool table – I’m sure you can find the photos on Facebook somewhere. Even though The Zebras still had to play that evening, I decided to call it a night before I ran into any of my new friends on the road. Or have them run into me. Besides, I’m not sure I could handle the spastic, fun, discordant, deconstructionist art-punk-metal that The Zebras promised to bring. I wasn’t in the mood to have anything deconstructed. Nothing personal.
So there you have it. The Von Ehrics. The Von Bondies. Von Iva is coming to town soon. Not to mention the Von Trapp family, Ludwig Von Beethoven and Von Halen.
Yep, Von is the new Meat.
Happy New Year, Y'All.