At an Agent Orange show in Milwaukee, of all places, maybe twenty years ago. It was cold as fuck for our Southern California blood. We’d known bass player Sam since his days playing some terrific bass for the Lexington Devils in the ‘80’s, and known Mike Palm forever. Crazy venue too. It was near downtown on an ancient block of low brick buildings from the 19th century. You stepped down some stairs which opened into a basement, three basements really, with big holes bashed through the walls separating them to give the illusion of three adjoining rooms. There was a bar in one, while in the middle room Agent Orange played and it was a ball, especially Mike’s guitar playing that wonderful blend of punk riffs and surf chops and that stinging tone matched to his ebullient stage presence, and seeing them out there was just like seeing them out here except for the freezing temps. The Milwaukee kids were beside themselves, bands we take for granted living here are something thrilling and longed for in the Midwest where they live for rock’n’roll. And while I love visiting Milwaukee—it’s Fyl’s hometown—seeing a Southern California summer band on a frigid Milwaukee night was discombobulating. But it was a good discombobulating. Having your expectations jarred loose once in a while lets you know you’re alive, otherwise everything turns grey.
Anyway this piece needs some tightening up, but later, later.
Inside a punk rock bar in Milwaukee. Photo, if I remember right, is by Mike Palm.
The AC3 at the Garage, I think, a zillion years ago. Allen A. Clark III was all of three years old here and already quite the drummer. His pop, Allen Clark Jr and mom Zebra (aka Zaida Clark, that’s her legs) formed the trio when AC started syncopating before he could walk, taking after his old man (once the driving beat of the Lazy Cowgirls) who is playing guitar here off to the right. You have to imagine it, as he’s not in the picture. I remember carefully composing this picture to get the perfect balance of child and gams, but I didn’t bother with Dad. After you’ve seen a guy leap stark naked into your drum kit there’s nothing much else to see. But that’s another story, deep in the blog somewhere. And little AC the tyke drummer is now huge AC the monster drummer, and mom and dad and son are rocknroll lunatics back in Indiana. And if that ain’t a wholesome tale I don’t know what is.
Formed in 1977 on a chicken ranch in Nipomo CA and quickly banned just about everywhere between Frisco and El Lay, Publik Enema was the greatest first wave punk rock band you never heard of. I saw their very last show, at George’s on Lower State in Saint Babs in 1979 and had my 22 year old mind blown. Still have a piece of that see thru guitar Ronnie shattered on the concrete floor at the end of the set in a fit of beauty, punk, pique and punctuality. And dig the crazed punk rock solo he plays on that guitar at the 9:00 mark of the Publik Enema Movie. This long lost film was shot in ‘78, at a bar in Goleta CA they were banned from soon after and in front of a terrified music appreciation class at a junior college in Santa Maria. Those were the days.
Terrific Mike Watt & the Missing Men set last night in MacArthur Park. For some reason their take on Little Johnny Jewel was my favorite this time but the whole damn thing was great. Perfect even. And I had never seen Bastidas! before. Great three piece, noisy and dissonant and young enough to run all over the stage without hurting themselves. There was a biblical prophet or a fur trapper or maybe one of the lesser known members of ZZ Top spinning obscure 70s Europrogopsych and zany glam and fucked up bubble gum before sets. Don Bolles, he said, but I knew better.
Great night, saw a lot of pals. And standing there on a cane a nice lady brought me a chair. I could get used to this gimp shtick.
And thus began our summer concert season.
Pete Shelley, R.I.P. Those Buzzcocks records, that Buzzcocks sound, it blew my mind in 1977-78. I actually have a vivid memory of the first time I ever heard them. It was the opening of Fast Cars. No one had ever made rock music like that before. I was stunned. Wow. Saw them twice back then, and still have a Buzzcocks poster on our living room wall. A bunch of jazz LP covers and the Buzzcocks. Anyway, a big part of my life then, the Buzzcocks were, those big geometrically dissonant power chords and staccato elfin vocals, the hooks and hot drumming. Forty years later I’m still surfing on a wave of nostalgia for a wave yet to come.
It’s just so cool to see Chris Stein (of the legendary Saccharine Trust and so many other aggregations) getting such a jazz man’s send off on Facebook, people talking about what a great guy he was and such a solid, inspired ensemble player. The grief is there, low and blue, but I think there’s no greater way to pay tribute to a musician who fought so hard against the inevitable than to talk about what a great guy he was and such a good player. He’ll certainly be missed in our crazy underground. He’ll certainly be missed on inspired nights at Cafe NELA. Bassists like him are a rare thing. People probably even rarer. A shame he’s gone but a treasure he was.
Chris Stein at Cafe NELA in another terrific live shot by Deb Frazin.
Back in 1977 I almost bought the Eater album, but I bought something else, who knows what. Then listening to a Sonny Rollins cut on YouTube just now, I saw the Eater album in the list of coming tracks. How that happened I have no idea. But I’m listening to the Eater album now. Never heard it before. Some of the cuts I know somehow, but not the whole record. About halfway through their take on Alice Cooper’s 18, I realized that when I didn’t buy this album I was only two years past 18, and next month I will be 41 years past 18 and I still didn’t buy this album. My friend didn’t buy it either, he stole it, way back when, which I suppose is kinda what it is I’m doing now, actually, since I didn’t pay anybody anything. Certainly not Mr. Eater or whoever. But when I tried to envision all the changes in technology between then and now it made my brain hurt, so I typed this instead and tried not to figure out where all these letters came from.