Wednesday, August 15, 2018

RIP Randy Rampage

Photo by Cindy LeGrier, not to be reused without permission

I've seen DOA fewer times than one might imagine. Never saw the classic lineup. Caught them once circa The Black Spot with Wimpy and, I think, Ford Pier at the SFU pub, back in the 1990's, and have seen them maybe eight times since then. But the best show I ever saw them put on, bar none, was with Randy Rampage and the Great Baldini at Richards on Richards, some ten years ago - which is where the above photo comes from. Randy's ebullient, endless rockstar charisma complimented Joe's so thoroughly that it made it one of the greatest, most dynamic punk shows I've seen; it was the only time I felt like I was seeing SOMETHING like "the Real DOA," not just Joe and whoever he was working with that year (No disrespect to Joe - the new lineup is great, in fact, and his current drummer trumps Jan, by me; but Randy was an original, in more than one sense of the word). I can only imagine what seeing them with Dave Gregg and Chuck Biscuits must have been like.

In fact, no I can't. Jealous of those of you who experienced it.

Actually, come to think of it, my second best experience of DOA was the time Dan Yaremko stepped down at the Complication gig to let Rampage take over bass duties, which was the beginning of Rampage's final tenure of DOA. Later in the night, he put down the bass and took the mike to lead an all-star "big band" jam of the Stooges' "No Fun," with members of the Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, Dishrags, Shades, and others onstage behind him (Zippy Pinhead I think was on drums... maybe Tony Walker or Brian Goble was on bass?). It was pretty magical, actually. I was right up front with a female friend. In all honesty, Rampage's performance of that song was more entertaining and meaningful and engaging, for me anyhow, than Iggy and the Stooges' own version of it in Seattle, a few years later. The Complication gig was like being at a really rockin' family function or something - and even if I wasn't part of the family, it was a privilege to be there.

And "Livin' on Borrowed Time," on his solo LP, is a pretty fantastic song, too. (More for Benny Doro's wiggy endless guitar solo, but Rampage is in great voice and it's the perfect song for him - one he apparently wrote in fifteen minutes, if I recall what he told me when I mentioned it to him).

Anyhow, I didn't really know Randy Rampage. I met him a few times. I saw him perform a few times. I am happy that the last time I interacted with him directly, it was to praise his solo performance at a DOA farewell show at the Rickshaw. (He was out of DOA at that point, but still joined Joe's event). I am under the impression through intermediaries he didn't like some things I wrote - an article on Bloodied But Unbowed for Big Takeover, for example - but I had no ill will towards the guy and totally enjoyed seeing him onstage that night and was glad I got to gush at him one last time, even if it was a little while ago.

Anyhow, the news is out: the Vancouver scene has lost another great, a big part of its spirit. No one as yet has announced how Rampage died, that I've seen, just that he passed at 7pm last night. Rest in peace, Rampage. There never was, and will never be, another like you. 

Randy Rampage and Brad Kent in San Francisco, by bev davies, "the night they tried to kill me with something in a brown paper sack," and the worst hangover of bev's life. she says (the sack is just off to the left of the pic)... Photo is not to be reused without permission - and incidentally that very phrase made its first appearance on this blog at Rampage's request when I ran a photo of him taken by Susanne Tabata here...

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

NO FUN Rich Folk Festival 2

David M., in a Facebook message to me, writes of the previous:
Nice blog piece. You might consider swapping out one of the "B" posters with one of the "A" posters. "B" posters have "Lots of Folking Variety", while "A" posters have "Over 3 Performers from Around the Estate". There will be museum-quality posters given away at the shows...
He adds that there will also be other treats for NO FUN Box Set owners who make one of the shows. I am not, however, sure which poster he means below, and have no time to think about these matters, so I'm just posting this one he sent with that comment. Show is next Monday at the Princeton, and is free! ...and now I must race to work. No rich folk around here....

Thursday, August 09, 2018

David M. rides again! The Rich Folk Festival, August 13th and 20th

Yes, you saw him at the Fight Back festival, doing a solo acoustic rendition of "Mindless Aggression," and a set of songs mostly drawn from the Body Shop Battle of the Bands of some 40 years ago, where DOA, Doug and the Slugs, and NO FUN all competed and lost, to a band now completely forgotten by time (M. declared DOA the real winner of that battle as part of his set at Fight Back, and indeed, should history be the judge, they were).

Maybe you even saw David M. the year before at the Rickshaw, opening for Marshall Crenshaw Y Los Straitjackets (or busking outside for the first David Bowie tribute, also at the Rickshaw; I gather he and Tim Chan did something in front of the Prince tribute, too, though I didn't make it to that). Or maybe you caught his Bowie tribute outside Music Madhouse Records - weirdly, the best-attended David M. solo set I have yet to see, and with added Ozzy (RIP, little guy; we miss you).

Hell, maybe you even saw him at my wedding, performing a song we co-wrote, and doing a clever mash up of Ben E. King and Bruce Springsteen. Maybe you saw one or more of those things, but have you seen a full David M. solo concert? (Or have you seen one LATELY? He hasn't DONE one lately, bear in mind).

Here's a tip, if not: these solo shows aren't, in fact, solo shows. They're much, much weirder and richer than what you've seen him do at the Rickshaw or Music Madhouse or my wedding (which is comparatively stripped down and "professional"); in his own milieu, M's sets are in fact interactive, with members of "the David M. Cult" (including sometimes me) (and also including the odd other guest from outside the cult proper) getting onstage with M, to recite weird beat poetry, sing (if we can), shake percussion instruments, hold up ancient issues of Rolling Stone, serve as a straight man to his gags, serve as a gag to his straight man - nothing gay going on there, folks; move along - or, yes, sometimes to hold his Gorgo. Even notable songwriters like Pete Campbell (who, besides being of Pink Steel and the Wardells, authored my favourite song about being alienated by hockey) sometimes join him!

You also get covers, chosen to reflect  the theme of the evening; a sampling of props and decorations (and sometimes even souvenir posters and such) and a host of David M/ NO FUN originals; plus the odd dry witticism or sarcastic comment or sometimes full-on monologue in-between songs. They're pretty fun, and they're never, uh, crowded, so if you really don't have anything else going on Monday night, WHY NOT CHECK ONE OUT?

It sounds like fun, right? And indeed, it is. So: August 13th, David M. will be doing a free show at the Heritage Grill, in the backroom, out in New Westminster. August 20th, David M. will be doing a free show at the Princeton Pub, in Vancouver. These free shows are free, and mark the return to the Vancouver music scene of the Rich Folk Festival (originally started, we gather, as a sort of poke at the Folk Festival, here happening somewhat out of synch with that).

I have no idea what a typical set at a NO FUN Rich Folk Festival looks like, but I will be on hand for at least one of these shows to find out (people wishing to avoid me should go to the one in New Westminster, since my attendance there is much less likely). If you have been entertained with any of these David M. appetizers mentioned above, you should consider trying the full meal deal. It's a pretty fun night, I promise.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Thinkin' about Bloodsport for Pride Week

Thinking about Bloodsport. If anyone is curious, it is the martial arts movie I have watched the largest number of times (four, now, I believe), mostly engaging in it from a safely ironic distance, as an example of prime '80's cheese. Its clunkiness and the obvious choreography of its fights only add to the charm, and it's fun to observe what an interesting and effective villain Bolo Yeung makes - a one man walking violation of a dozen stereotypes about Asian men, being huge, muscular, rude, aggressive, prideful, and at times positively murderous, with a massive ego that he revels in fulfilling in the ring. He's very entertaining to watch (as are Van Damme's splits).

I suppose there are other ways to watch Bloodsport, too - say for glimpses into previously unfilmed parts of Hong Kong. I presume there are also plenty of people - Van Damme fans, kickboxing enthusiasts, and so forth, who watch it without a single chuckle, without feeling at all superior to the subject matter. A guy I knew in high school took up kickboxing back in the 1980's, partially inspired by the movie; I suspect he was not watching it with irony back then, nor would he be doing so if he revisited it today.

Tonight, I mostly spent the viewing puzzling on the film's rampant, unavoidable homoeroticism. Even my wife, who thinks I find repressed cinematic homoeroticism in some funny places, and who occasionally is known to glance at me, when men are pounding on each other in some film - in the sense of "engaging in fisticuffs," that is - and ask, "Is this homoerotic?" If nothing else was accomplished by choosing Bloodsport as my evening movie with her, I think she sees what I mean now.  With Van Damme in almost prettyboy make up, about as much flesh-to-flesh male contact as you'd get in a gay porn film, and a steady stream of male significant eye contact, touching, body-slamming and bonding - not to mention a sex scene where only the man is naked, a plot that forces Van Damme to choose between being with the woman who wants him and engaging in full contact sports with men, and a climax where two men look at each other and pledge their love to each other - Bloodsport is about as queer as it could possibly be and still be in denial. But that's puzzling to me, because the 1980's, which it is VERY much a product of, were a time of pretty strong repression of homosexuality. The guy I mentioned who took up kickboxing because of this film - a masculine fella who drove around in a 4X4 truck and had little time for analyzing films - would probably have kicked me in the face for even suggesting Bloodsport was queerish, but then, he's one of those people who would have been shocked to learn Rob Halford was gay, y'know? Some people are kind of innocent in these matters.

Anyhow, a theory percolated to the surface tonight: that it is precisely because of the repression of homosexuality rampant at the time that so much of it  is allowed barely concealed expression in the film. (A similar contradiction occurs in Japanese high schools, where boys - at least when I lived there, some sixteen years ago - could regularly be seen holding hands, despite far greater and more repressive taboos against male homosexuality than we have; they were freer to do it than a Canadian 16 year old boy would be, because OBVIOUSLY they aren't gay: "how can you even ask that?").  It is only because of the normalized repression of homosexuality that you can have THIS much "fraught male contact" in a movie and still be able to say there's nothing queer about it; without denial and repression, you have to call it what it is, and that just ruins everything. In the current, more open and self-aware climate, if you made a film like Bloodsport, you'd either have to openly acknowledge the homoerotic elements (or hide them much, much better) or else you'd be laughed out of the theatre. Maybe we can even go one further, and speculate that the taboos against male homosexuality aren't so much about protecting the species from collapsing - as the more philosophical homophobes will assert - but because they want, themselves, to be able to express their queerer side, without the danger of being called on it. If gays are everywhere and we have to acknowledge their presence and their rights, it can interfere with straight men's "freedom" to slap each other on the ass in the locker room or "roughhouse" with each other and pledge their love and so forth. Maybe the reason (some) straight men want to oppress and marginalize male homosexuality is actually that it interferes with THEM indulging their own queerness a little, makes it harder to get away with and still maintain plausible denial? If we let THEM out of the closet, maybe our own closet walls will be that much weaker...?

Anyhow, that's where I went, watching Bloodsport again. It's a pretty entertaining movie, actually, especially if you start rummaging around in its id. I kinda recommend it.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit

Finally caught up with Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit the other day (popping up as a $5 DVD on the sale racks of some London Drugs, note). There's some very interesting criticism of the film out there, say by Richard Brody (whose likening it to Schindler's List, which he describes as "another film about atrocities that is itself an atrocity," is apt); or Armond White, who doesn't have to work quite as hard as he sometimes does to point out problems with the film. I don't disagree with either writer, but was still impressed by aspects of Bigelow's artistry in Detroit. I haven't loved anything she's done since Blue Steel, but had respect for the film as a confrontational, demanding work - was at times even thinking of Peter Watkins' Punishment Park. It's a problematic film, to be sure, but quite intense and well-crafted; the questions about the movie have more to do with its underlying morality, as both above-linked reviews suggest, than its craft - though note that some scenes are extremely hard to watch. And it's bothersome that the racist white cops are made the more interesting characters in the film, are the ones who command the narrative, especially since there are so many other possibilities in the film...

...anyhow, especially with Spike Lee's The BlacKkKlansman opening (I believe) next week, it makes for interesting, provocative viewing.