Thursday, November 30, 2017

Thoughts on and for David Thomas

The short version: Whatever else I might say about him - he's a blue butterfly, whatever - I actually think I LIKE David Thomas as a human being. He's kind of a heroic figure, really. 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo is small fuckin' potatoes compared to 40+ years fronting an underground rock band, dealing with weird-ass fans like me, being paid far too little, and surviving the discomforts and indignities of life on the road for so long, when there are doubtlessly so many more lucrative things he might have done. Mr. Thomas has my deep respect, gratitude, and well-wishings, whatever should come to pass; if he can't complete the tour, he's done enough, it's fine, and it's AMAZING that Ubu should have put out so many great albums and played so many great shows over the years (I got to see three of them!). If the new album should prove to be the last one,  it's amazing and delightful to end on so high a note, a full-circle return to guitar driven proto-punk with a weird-ass edge. I sincerely love it. And if he CAN complete the tour, WHOO! I will still go. I hope he recovers from his illness. I send utter love at him, and gratitude, and fondness. Never mind the rest.

Pere Ubu by Bob Hanham, Dec. 2 2016, not to be reused without permission 

The long version: 

I gotta say a few things here about David Thomas. Totally hoping he's going to be all right, and totally bummed about Pere Ubu having to cancel the show tonight (and, I gather, the rest of the West Coast tour, seven dates in all, though that's not on the Official Ubu FB page as yet, or wasn't last I looked). I very much hope that it gets rescheduled, when he is feeling better. But I gather things are pretty serious, so it might not, folks. Remains to be seen!

Lotta complex feelings are provoked.

1. With apologies to wendythirteen, I am flat-out-fuckin' GLAD I went to see Pere Ubu at the Cobalt last December. It might, indeed, prove to be my last time seeing Ubu. Fact is, after I broke the seal on that contested, sadly-storied venue (which some die hard supporters of Wendy like Billy Hopeless and Clay Holmes still will not go into, since she was booted out), I felt a bit guilty, when it turned out I was going to get a chance to go to the Rickshaw, my favourite venue in town, and see them AGAIN not a year later. I was going to be be proven wrong in my past justification for my "disloyalty" last year. I had said that "it might be my last time seeing Pere Ubu," and now, look, I was wrong.

But wait: no, I was right.  So: I am flat-out-fuckin' GLAD I went, and I said it. (I haven't been back but I got no regrets: sorry, Wendy, Billy, Clay, and the five or ten other people locally that this is actually an issue for).

2. I loved that show. Even some of the more off-colour notes, I took as part and parcel of the "theatre" of Ubu: David checking his timepiece as the crowd cheered for an encore, to determine if he had fulfilled his obligations (Ubuprojex had announced an exact set length and he was gonna stick to it!)... Or, say, his giving very, very transparently indulgent and insincere grins as he signed stuff at the merch table with his deliberately illegible scrawl, as if to communicate a) Yes I will sign stuff but b) I won't actually sign it in a way you can read and c) even though I am signing it and grinning and doing what is expected I would really rather be having a hot bath at the hotel right now. He could have been holding that on a sign above his head, it was so transparent. But it was a strange thing, because here he is smilin' at me like the whole transaction is absurd, and here I am recognizing it, and kinda conceding the point to myself, and not blaming him at all for wanting to be somewhere else... and yet here I am, still getting his signature! "Yep, this is ridiculous. Yep, I can see you don't want to do this. Nope, I don't blame you. But, uh, would you sign here anyhow even though I won't be able to make any sense of it at all?" (David scribbles something and gives a big indulgent grin.) "THANK YOU!"

I mean, this is a guy who has been playing and touring in an underground rock band, with tons of respect from a devoted cult, but little in the way of financial recompense, for OVER 40 YEARS! 40 YEARS! He's never stopped! Even though he's some sort of free market capitalist, who believes that if art has value, people will PAY for it, he hasn't gone after anything "easy," financially; it's not in his nature (and you know what, though I didn't dig them at the time, even the couple of "commercial compromise" albums he made with Fontana were pretty weird). He has spent OVER 40 YEARS in service to his weirdo fans like me, without ever to my knowledge playing the "retirement" game; his work ethic is immense, obviously. And here he is, 63 years old - as of Dec. 2016; I believe he's 64 now - and he's got multiple health issues, and yet he's still recording, still touring, playing the fucking Cobalt, to a few hundred fans?! I mean, who else in modern underground rock has served his cult so devotedly for so long? This is fucking HEROISM. And I mean, if you still don't get it - THIS IS THE MAN WHO WROTE THE LYRICS TO "SONIC REDUCER," FOR CHRISSAKE. If he wants to make a face while signing and sign his signature in a way I can't read? I'll TAKE IT! Someday I'll show it off to my friends: "This is the illegible scrawl David Thomas made on my Rocket From the Tombs poster, and THIS is the illegible scrawl he made on my Lady From Shanghai album, and when I asked him about it, he said, 'I just sign everything with an indecipherable squiggle. Sorry.'").

(Though I absolutely love that my friend Judith Beeman made him print his name in block letters beneath his squiggle when she got him to sign something to her at the Biltmore show, and to his great credit - this is a VERY smart guy - I bet he got a kick out of it, too).

3. And I fucking LOVED his between song stories that night at the Cobalt. I actually wondered if he'd read my pre-show piece, praising Ubu's uniqueness, because I had situated the Velvet Underground among beatniks at one point in that, maybe considering contesting their sainted status (but never Ubu's). And David's between song-stories began with a narrative about Nico touring in a van with hippies! ("Imagine that, Nico with hippies!"). He might have been chastening me a little, and maybe I deserved it, but I was rapt and flattered to feel myself addressed in some way. I wish I had a recording of the whole show (I did shoot one Youtube clip). And being able to watch Robert Wheeler rock his Theremin, which I couldn't even SEE the last time they'd played Vancouver, at the Biltmore, was fascinating. That Youtube clip reveals some of it.

4. And I really, really mean him no disrespect, ever. Like, there's a lot of discussion about separating the artist from his art right now, and I don't know how far I think being an artist excuses bad behaviour: it sure seems like a lot of people have been abusing their power and influence, taking advantage of their celebrity to do gross things. But while I have seen David a) drink kinda a lot on stage sometimes; b) get kinda cranky with his band onstage; c) get a bit derisive - at the Biltmore show, say - with his audience; and while d) he has occasionally lost his patience with me as an interviewer (more to come on that), none of what he has done has remotely affected my being a Pere Ubu fan, or a David Thomas fan, or...

Case in point: during one of my last email exchanges with him, apropos of an interview - some of which has seen print, but some of which hasn't, I tried a total cop-out move; I got LAZY and tried to just ask him to give me snapshots of his songwriting process at different phases, how it had changed over the years. He had already patiently answered several questions, but that was the breaking point. His response was, "This really is tiresome. I think about what I do. I don't have to talk about it also."

Eek! End interview quickly. I apologized for stretching his patience and suggested we pick things up at a later date, to which he replied:

"Your questions are very good and deserve to be answered. It's simply that you have the misfortune to ask them at a time that I no longer feel like using my time to answer questions. Also, being good, and requiring time and thought to answer, I tire of answering too many such questions in a row."
The upshot of which is, THIS IS A CLASSY GUY. He might have his eccentricities - at the Biltmore piece he'd joked a bit bitterly about some writer (I think me) typifying him as a "grouchy weirdo," I believe was the phrase - but even though he let me KNOW he was tiring of my questions, he did so in an entirely conciliatory, even complimentary manner (at least in his follow up). Nothing that grouchy or weird AT ALL, there. His music is weird, natch, as strange at the rock of the Residents or Captain Beefheart or so forth, and maybe even STRANGER, since he's coming from a vastly more conservative background (my understanding is, he was raised Jehovah's Witness, which might inform his work ethic and his value of capitalism; I have no idea if he's still part of the church now, but there are stories about him telling Alex Varty and Nathan Holiday in an interview about how this-and-that lyric were inspired by things he'd read in Watchtower. I have no idea what to make of it, but it makes him, and the music he's chosen to make, MORE interesting and remarkable, not less). All the same...

And here we return to the "short version" statement I started this with.

Whatever else I might say about him - he's a blue butterfly, whatever - I actually think I LIKE David Thomas as a human being. He's kind of a heroic figure, really. 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo is small fuckin' potatoes compared to 40+ years fronting an underground rock band, dealing with weird-ass fans like me, being paid far too little, and surviving the discomforts and indignities of life on the road for so long, when there are doubtlessly so many more lucrative things he might have done. Mr. Thomas has my deep respect, gratitude, and well-wishings, whatever should come to pass; if he can't complete the tour, he's done enough, it's fine, and it's AMAZING that Ubu should have put out so many great albums and played so many great shows over the years (I got to see three of them!). If the new album should prove to be the last one,  it's amazing and delightful to end on so high a note, a full-circle return to guitar driven proto-punk with a weird-ass edge. I sincerely love it. And if he CAN complete the tour, WHOO! I will still go. I hope he recovers from his illness. I send utter love at him, and gratitude, and fondness. Never mind the rest.

Please get better, Mr. Thomas (and please don't even CONSIDER returning to the road until you are, work ethic be damned!).

Sunday, November 26, 2017

David Thomas is a blue butterfly: a Steve Mehlman interview!

Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

IMPORTANT NOTE! THE PERE UBU (OFFICIAL) FACEBOOK PAGE AND MO AT THE RICKSHAW CONFIRM: TOMORROW'S SHOW HAS BEEN CANCELLED (apparently due to a medical emergency). My best wishes to David Thomas and hope for a speedy recovery! Hope to see you again! (Hope you don't mind that I called you a blue butterfly!). By the way, since this was posted on the Ubu official FB page yesterday, the article has gotten over 1,200 views! (The remainder of the article below is unchanged!

(Note: the following is Allan speaking; we'll get to Pere Ubu/ Rocket From the Tombs drummer Steve Mehlman presently).

You know that Leonard Cohen poem where one of the links in his armour - he says a chain, but you imagine chain mail - is a blue butterfly? And people who want to attack him (or his third-person character in the poem) keep aiming for the blue butterfly, and failing, because it happens to be his most fortified spot? It's called "Nothing Has Been Broken" and can be read, maybe even heard, here; I won't repost it in full, but the last lines say, "A thrust at any link/ might have brought him down/ but each of you aimed at the blue butterfly."

Well - I'm not trying to bring anyone down, here, or even make an attack, but somewhere back there I got to thinking that David Thomas is Pere Ubu's blue butterfly. By which I mean, as the frontperson and the sole constant member since the band's founding in 1975, he's the link in the chain that is going to draw all the attention and interest, not just from the audience, but especially from journalists, trying to pry into the various mysteries of Ubu (a mysterious band indeed; who among us can truthfully claim they REALLY understand them?). There might be other exceptional elements to the chain (ANYONE who has been playing in Pere Ubu for some 20 years, as is the case of Robert Wheeler, Michelle Temple, and Steve Mehlman, is bound to be an interesting person), but he's the one people are going to notice and have questions of.

Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

That makes him a somewhat daunting interview, because before you even interact with him, you know he's heard it all before, been asked it all before. And he's got a pretty interesting philosophy that raises the bar even higher. When I HAVE interviewed him, in the past, he's said - when I asked him about my impression that he was disinclined to explain his songs - that "if the 'meaning' of a song can be condensed into a few sentences then what is the point of making a song?"

Which is a really fair point, actually - to borrow a different metaphor, I prefer humour to dead frogs, myself. But it brings me to a full stop as an interviewer, where I have to admit that I kind of like the inexplicable nature of Pere Ubu, enjoy their strangeness, would rather interpret their music in my own way than pester him to explain lyrics to me.

All of which I'm fine with, but what the hell else am I going to ask him about? Having interviewed him a couple of times over the years - straining and occasionally failing to make it interesting for him, too - I decided, last time the band came to town, that I had run out of ideas; that I would rather give him a break, and find out about OTHER members of the band.

Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

I mean no censure of David Thomas here, note. I gather that he had a very convivial and charming conversation with the Vancouver Sun recently. But not aiming at the blue butterfly seems like a possibly fruitful strategy. It worked pretty well with Robert Wheeler, last year, when Pere Ubu played a very memorable, tight set at the Cobalt. And this year - apropos of their November 30th show at the Rickshaw - I decided to aim at long-time Ubu and RFTT drummer (and Ubu merch table man) Steve Mehlman, who exudes a bit of a pranksterish charm onstage, and is a personable enough fellow when you talk with him at the table.

Plus on all the internet (in English, anyways!) there appear to be only one or two interviews with Mr. Mehlman - here, for instance - so, you know, you don't have to be too afraid of boring the guy. I sent Steve a bunch of questions about his history with drumming and with the Cleveland music scene - including Pere Ubu. I asked about his role with the merch (both on the Ubuprojex website and at merch tables). And I asked about Pere Ubu's new album 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo - a very pleasntly ROCKIN' album, far more guitar-driven and straightforward than their last few records; aspects of it seem practically RFTT in their drive (check the lead single, "Monkey Biznis," say; that's one driving rock song for Pere Ubu to do). I didn't even realize that he'd written most of my favourite songs on the album when I pitched the interview! (The album just says "all songs written by Pere Ubu"). Steve elected to not respond in a question-and-answer fashion, but wrote a sort of autobiographical essay in response. There are a couple of places where you might infer that there's an absent question that he's responding to, but rather than track down what I think he's answering, or fake a question, I think this just works pretty well as a story (a pretty funny one, too) - you may have to ride past a couple transitions, but I think it works. (He also mentioned a video for his old band Sissy doing the Birthday Party's "Sonny's Burning," but there was no link, so...)

Anyhow, that's about it for me. Folks, if you haven't seen Pere Ubu before - it will be hard for them to top their show at the Cobalt last year, but if that gig and the strength of 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo are any indication, Thursday's show is not to be missed. Rickshaw proprietor Mo Tarmohamed has been talking about Ubu being on his bucket list for bands he's wanted to book since I first interviewed him, and I'm very excited at the opportunity to see one of my favourite bands at my favourite local music venue. Never did I imagine I'd get to see Pere Ubu four times in my life. I figured when I caught them on the Tenement Year tour at Club Soda, with John Cale opening, it would be my only chance to see them... how wrong I was.

Thanks to Steve Mehlman for doing this! 

Pere Ubu at the Cobalt, Nov. 2016, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Steve Mehlman writes:

When I was a little kid, like maybe six or seven or so, my cousin Tom had a big drum set and I was fascinated by it and I loved watching him play. Shortly after that, while living with my Dad, the next-door neighbor's son Mark, who was a little older than me and my brother, had this cool room in the garage which included a drum set and lots of records. I used to sit and watch him play all the time, he played me weird shit I'd never heard of and lots of backwards masking stuff. Eventually, when I was nine my dad got a drum set for my brother. I probably played it more than he did, but about four months after "we" got it some girl that went by the name of "moose" pushed him out of a tree and he smashed his elbow in a million places… And then I just kept playing.

It was halfway through fourth grade when I moved back to Cleveland with my Mom (my Mom had to put up with most of the noise and visits from the police for being too loud, but she was super patient and both of my parents are really supportive). We had a neighbor that lived behind us named Jeff that played guitar, and I used to go over and watch him play all the time. He was a shredder and played a bunch of metal stuff. We would jam together a lot. He was only a year older than me, but he was way better than I was, so it was probably a little bit boring for him but fun nonetheless 'cause neither one of us had anyone else to play with except for some older kind of weird dude with a curly mullet whose name I can't remember that played bass. I do remember that we played a lot of Van Halen because the huge talent gap between Eddie and Alex fit our needs.

I also had these twin friends, Derrick and Danielle, who had an older brother named Mike. When I was in sixth grade and Mike was in ninth grade, he and some of his older friends had a sort of band and they asked me to play with them. I thought it was the coolest thing ever because I was like 11 years old hanging out with these 15 and 16-year-olds. The only songs I remember playing were "Living After Midnight," some other Judas Priest song. and "Am I Evil"... we were called Rotted Goat... that was my first band. I think the chalk graffiti of a goat head and a pentagram are still on the wall in my childhood bedroom...

I had a couple junior high/high school bands after that- at my eighth grade dance, two of my friends and I played like three or four songs, but the only one I remember playing was "Mony Mony." We got unplugged and yelled at because of that little added lyric that I have no idea where it came from that we weren't even singing... but everyone else was ("here she comes now sayin' in Mony Mony. Hey! Hey what? Get laid get fucked..." Don't ask me).

When I was in ninth grade my friend Steve and I played in a band with a bunch of seniors and kids that just graduated doing a bunch of covers for a Catholic school carnival… My first paying gig.
I had a band at the the last couple years of high school with a couple of younger friends. The beginning of the year right after I graduated we played some pep rally thing and got shut down because we had a smoke machine and pretty much filled the place. I yelled and threw shit and we knocked all our stuff over... The best part was that a bunch of teachers came up and apologized to me afterwards…weird. This was also the first band I played in a club with.

So, in The summer of 1990 my grandmother (my mom's mother) passed and left me enough money to buy a new drum kit. I still use that same drum kit today...almost every day. I'd give you the specs on it, but really who cares, unless somebody has a Yamaha rock tour custom kit for sale for a reasonable price...?

I went to college for a minute and that is where I meant the legendary Lamont BIM Thomas of The Bassholes, This Moment in Black History and OBNOX. I have been playing with OBNOX for the past couple years or so. He puts out more material than Jo-Ann Fabrics. In October we released a record called Murder Radio, his second full length of the year and the first record he's put up with a different drummer other than himself (we will be doing some touring next year). Anyway, I dropped out and joined a cover band. I learned like 60 songs in a couple weeks- all kind of alt rock type of stuff from Love and Rockets and REM to Jane's Addiction and Nirvana and so on. They were all good guys, but they didn't really pay me anything because they had so much debt on all the gear and the box truck that they bought years earlier… I don't know what they paid themselves or if they ever even paid that shit off. Nonetheless, they are all all off doing great things now.

Shortly after that in the summer of '91 I was at my friend Dean's little brother's graduation party. I had rainbow hair, a red beret and painted nails and shit, and a bunch of us were screwing around in the backyard. My friend's mom and some friend of hers were hanging out up on the patio when they called me over. My friend's mom introduced me to her friend and said that her daughter had a band that needed a drummer. So, Sally Martello introduced me to her daughter Rae, and I joined the Vivians… I think they tried a couple other people out, but ended up with me. This is where I met Michele Temple (at that time she played guitar and like no one I'd ever heard before, or since really). I remember during practices with them, we would finish a song and she'd say "that was great, but can we do it again a little faster and a little louder?" So we do it again and she'd go "that was better can you do it again a little faster and a little louder?" so we would and so on. So I became a basher pretty early on.

At that point Stewart Copeland (The Police), Matt Cameron (Soundgarden), Hugo Burnham (Gang of Four) and Mike Bordin (Faith No More) were (and still are) my favorite drummers, but the Vivians turned me onto Mac McNeilly from The Jesus Lizard who I thought to some extent kind of combined my favorite parts of all of them. But I was also into a lot of goth and industrial, so I really liked Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Einstürzende Neubaten, Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails and so on- a lot of that was because I was enamored with the older brother (Danny, also a drummer) of one of my best friends at the time (Dean C, the guitar player/singer of my high school band) and that was all shit that he listened to. When we were most definitely not old enough to be at bars we would sneak in to watch his brother's bands play.

I think it was in 1993 that Michele got into Pere Ubu when Tony Maimone left to play with They Might be Giants and Bob Mould and start his own studio and...probably a whole lot of other things… I think it was later that year there was a Pere Ubu tribute album (Ubu Dance Party, which was finally released in 1996) that was going to be put out and they had asked the Vivians to do a song for it. From just having been around the music scene in Cleveland I had heard of Pere Ubu, but I didn't really know anything by them despite probably having heard it in the background many times. Anyway Michele offered me five songs to pick from. I think my first two choices were "Final Solution" and "Humor Me," but she said by the time we got to it that those were not options anymore, and we ended up doing Codex. I thought it came out pretty sweet. We even had David come up and sing it with us on stage at a Vivians show at the old Grog Shop, where I also worked picking up pieces of broken toilets and mopping the carpet.

Pere Ubu was on some bigger label that I can't remember right now and doing some package tour and the rest of the Vivians and a couple friends went up to The Metro in Chicago to see them play. The show was pretty amazing, they had Garo Yellin playing cello and David played what I later found out was Robert Wheeler's 10th grade electronics project - his homemade Theremin that he got a C on because he couldn't play "America the Beautiful," or something like that. But David was quirky and captivating.

SO, in 1995, Scott Krauss quit Pere Ubu for the, I think, third and final time. I don't know exactly how this goes, but they were recording Ray Gun Suitcase and I believe they did everything to a click track. Michele got the original Vivians' drummer Scott Benedict, who is a total beast of a drummer, and he came in and blasted through the whole album. When it came time to tour however, because he had a business and a new child, he wasn't able to make that commitment so Michele asked if I wanted to. I said yes. And that was the end of the audition.

I was given a list of about 25 songs to learn and told when to show up for four days of rehearsals before an eight week tour… That was probably less than a month before the tour started, but I was really good at learning and memorizing songs, so it didn't really seem like that big of a deal to me. I was aware of the legendary status of the band and that the original guitar player, Tom Herman, was returning as well.

Now, this is hearsay, but I heard it from Tom and David; it certainly sounds right enough but I don't remember it exactly. They said that I showed up with long blue hair and painted fingernails, shit tied around my arms, a shredded shirt, boots and a skirt, and they looked at each other, eyes wide as if to say "what the fuck did we get ourselves into?"

Well, since I had done my homework confidently without any real problems I basically walked in thinking "what are these old men gonna tell me that I don't already know? It's not whether or not I can play the songs, it's whether or not they can keep up with me..."And what did those old men have to tell me? Mostly to play quieter... Also, I am now older than they were when I started in the band.

The rest is, well, still happening…

We did a bunch of cool shit with a bunch of cool people - we did a couple of shows where we had Wayne Kramer from the MC5 play guitar for us at the Knitting Factory NY. There have been a lot of people that have shown up to shows that I wish I would've met, and many that I actually did talk to - the last Ubu tour I met one of my favorite guitar players when we were in Seattle, Kim Thayil from Soundgarden. He was super nice and appreciative, and he assured me that Matt Cameron would love my drumming (I'll take that!). Rocket From the Tombs played a show in DC and before the show this woman came up to me and introduced herself as Ian McKaye's sister; she said a lot of her family was there. After the show while David and I were selling merch, Ian came up and introduced himself and my jaw just dropped and of course I said "I know exactly who you are." Then David asked me to go get change for him and Ian immediately offered to do it for me! What a sweetheart and goddamn, sometimes you meet your idols and they're as cool as you want them to be.

We did lots of little tours and one-offs with Ubu and RFTT here and there in between the bigger tours for the albums but never more than a couple to five weeks at a time. There were a few years in between each of the few first few records I was on and in 1996 I started college... but it still took me five years and taking classes every summer to get my chemistry degree because I kept having to take semesters off to do tours. A couple of times I just skipped Friday classes, flew to somewhere in Europe and got back in time for Monday classes. In 1999 when we went to Japan, Australia and New Zealand I had to bring my chemistry, calculus and physics books with me so I wouldn't be too far behind when I got back after missing the first two weeks of classes. I got a job as a research chemist immediately after graduating, got laid off a little less than two years later and never looked back... mostly because having a full-time job would interfere with my ability to tour. Two weeks of vacation a year will not do it.

In 2003 David decided he was going to put Rocket from the Tombs back together for a weekend festival at UCLA called Disastodrome. I don't know the whole story, but he couldn't get ahold of the old drummer or whatever, so he asked me to do it. and I thought yeah, more touring (maybe) with heavier songs! It was at that festival where I saw one of the weirdest combinations of people backstage. I'm sure I was staring and giggling while I watched Stan Ridgway, Frank Black and George Wendt talk about...who cares what; it was weird enough just seeing them. I didn't need to know that they were trading cooking tips or whatever. That's also where I met Georgia and Ira from Yo La Tengo, two of the nicest people you'll ever meet.

Rocket From the Tombs have recorded two records of new material. The most recent one being the Black Record which I am very proud of, and also I finally contributed another song, "I've Got a File On You," that I am really proud of- made it up on the spot, taught it to the guitar player, recorded it on his iPhone gave it to David and it ended up on the record just like that. I think i'm now on 3 RFTT records and 8 Ubu records, the newest being 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo

I think the first song that I actually submitted to the band is on Saint Arkansas called "Steve." There was also a song that David and I recorded in his hotel room in Lisbon called...? Yup, "Lisbon."

What seems to have happened in the past is that David would ask people to start giving him songs. Sometime after that we would either get together or get some demos to learn or write parts to and then we would go into the studio maybe all at once, but rarely recording more than one instrument at a time. As of the last several recordings, it's usually just me, David and Paul and a click track or a demo (it is Ubu law that all demos are recorded to a click track) and I have the structure of the song written out to keep track of where I am.

I have been made to do some very odd things in the studio; I often record my parts to nothing but a click track, but sometimes I have to do everything separately (one pass of kick drum, one pass of the rest of the drums and one pass of cymbals...). I've been asked to sing back ups for songs I don't know the lyrics to and apparently sometimes I'm just not allowed to know. The weirdest one was doing hand claps for a song that I think was on Saint Arkansas. First they made me do "analog panning" (two mics set up, one to the left and one to the right and I had to sway back-and-forth the clapping in to each one), but they could hear my shirt rubbing against itself so I had to take my shirt off. Then David decided the clapping didn't sound wet enough so I had to cover my hands in Vaseline. Then, because it was the middle of summer, I was sweating and they said they could hear my armpits sloshing, so I had to towel them off and get as far as I could before they started hearing it again, stop the tape, dry off my armpits and then continue recording...

So, a couple years ago we were playing a show in Poland and staying in some hotel that Hitler used to use… I was in my big ass fancy room that I clearly didn't deserve, trying to book a bus ticket for when I returned to Brighton to go up to Manchester to see my girlfriend. After trying and failing several times because it kept denying my credit card and then blocked me from making any further attempts, I killed my phone. major-league-baseball-pitch-style, against a stone wall... I hate phones. Nonetheless, a week later I got home and about a week after that I went and bought a new phone. It had Garageband already installed on it, so rather than dicking around on Facebook or playing video games or using it as a communication device, I started writing songs. Between July 2015 and January 2016 I sent about three dozen unsolicited songs to David. they were all "complete" songs in that there were drums, guitar and bass, some with multiple guitar lines, some with keyboards, solos etc. several of them I suspected would work for Rocket from the Tombs several of them I thought would work for Ubu, but there were a bunch I knew he wouldn't be interested in but I sent them anyway. Well, five of the first nine songs that I sent to him ended up on the new record ("Toe to Toe," "Monkey Bizness," "Red Eye Blues," "Howl," "Cold Sweat"), none of which were songs that I thought he would pick. Again, I'm really proud of how they all came out, the entire album is, dare I say, stunning.

As far as playing in other bands, I've gotten to the point where I'm limiting how thin I will spread myself, so it's just Ubu and OBNOX. However, I have been in a ton of bands and have a lot of recordings but I don't know how many of them are even available. One of my favorites is the Terminal Lovers album Drama Pit, later released as Drama Pit and Loan. Me and my friend Dave Cintron who also did a couple of tours with Ubu several years ago worked on a bunch of songs in my girlfriend's basement and we ran in the studio and recorded a pretty blistering album… If he's still got copies, you should get one from him. Another one I'm really pretty happy with is a 10 inch EP I did with Roué called Totally Fucking Totally. It's four songs of chaotic mindfuck rock - I know there are still copies available but I have no idea how to get them. One last band I will mention is Mofos. That is the band of Gary Siperko, who I got to replace the lead guitarist of RFTT and later just to fill in for Ubu guitar player Keith Moliné when we could not get a visa for him. Gary wrote a few songs on Rockets' Black Record and a couple songs on the new Ubu record as well.

There's probably stuff from all of my bands, including cover bands available on YouTube... I have a basement recording from about eight or so years ago of a punk band i was in called The Plain Dealers (after the Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer) with Cheetah Chrome's replacement in RFTT, Buddy Akita. I'd love to release some of that one day... but I'm just going to give you a few with me and Gary from the one Mofos show that i did with him:

...and here is a Terminal Lovers video that a friend of ours made and submitted to a Godzilla video contest… and he won!

...fuck it, here's some Roué:

I've already sent 12 more songs to David for consideration for the next album, so with any luck that will be underway in the relatively near future. If you want dirt and gritty details you're going to have to wait for my biography that I'm never going to write... but ply me with enough alcohol...

Pere Ubu at the Biltmore, by Bev Davies, not to be reused without permission

Cousin Harley after-show report, plus Stephen Nikleva, Big Top, and the Rocket Revellers

Last night at the Rickshaw rocked! A reasonable crowd, and probably three great bands, only two of which I can vouch for (missed the Wheelgrinders entirely). I am glad I worked references to Jimmy Roy and Stephen Nikleva into the long version of my Paul Pigat piece for the Straight, but am kicking myself a bit that I didn't double check to see if they were on the bill - which they indeed were, in the lineup of the Rocket Revellers, featuring the Revel Room's Dennis Brock on vocals. He looks sufficiently like Billy Bones of the Vicious Cycles that I wondered if they were the same guy, though his vocals are a bit cleaner, so I'm guessing not. The Revellers also included former Trespassers' piano player Mike Van Eyes, whom I haven't seen in some time, since the Japanese Earthquake Relief show at the Venue almost ten years ago. He's a helluva showman - it was fun watching Erika trying to get a shot or a video clip of him using his feet to add flourishes to his piano playing, but he never did it when she had her phone out. I had a little conversation with Mike afterwards about the possibility of Trespassers material coming to light; but his responses should probably remain confidential for now. It would be wonderful indeed to hear some of that material on record, though, especially now that frontman Howard Rix and bassist Brian Goble have both passed on; Rix was, I gather, one heck of a songwriter (I only ever caught him live that night, and during a brief Iggy-channelling appearance with Rude Norton at the Cobalt, but he was real impressive both times).

Oh, and Jimmy Roy announced from the stage during the Rocket Revellers set that Petunia and the Vipers will be opening for the Flesh Eaters - my favourite Los Angeles punk band of yore, in a classic lineup featuring members of X, the Blasters, and Los Lobos - which is just great. That's January 25th; there will be more to come, but you can get a taste of my old interview with frontman Chris D. here.

As for Stephen Nikleva, of course I'm champing at the bit to hear the new Red Herring album (no idea how long until that sees the light), and have put up live video clips of a few of their newer songs - like "The Monkey Song" - contemplating the servitude and loss of freedom of a lab animal from the animal's (tragically quite forgiving) point of view - and Erika's fave, the Latin-inflected "Consuela" - but in the meantime, his own unit, which cross-pollinates Eastern European folk jazz with surf, lounge exotica, and maybe a small smidgen of psychobilly, has been added to the bill as an opener for a "Big Top sings" show at the Anza Club on December 21st. Nikleva's solo CD, Square Moon, appeals to Erika so much that I've just surrendered it to her car. I may buy a second copy for myself...

Big Top, meanwhile - fronted by guitarist Scott McLeod - is kinda the next local band I want to write about,\ though their inter-categorical instrumental music - sort of a reflective, atmospheric, even at times slightly Lynchian surf carnival - is kinda daunting to approach; I've had their CD, Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy, since it came out, maybe five years ago (I lived in Maple Ridge at the time), but have never known quite what the hell to say; seeing them live since has helped me to understand their music, and Jo Jo has certainly grown on me, but like all music that slips between categories, it may take awhile to warm to its brilliance. Their show on the 21st will add vocalists to the mix, including the Judys' Dennis Mills, the inimitable Ana Bon Bon, and Al Mader, the Minimalist Jug Band. I've been hearing some inside deets from Al about that but don't know which of them are printable as yet, or relevant to the show, but it sounds like this is going to be a great night.   

Of course, they also have Big Top Tuesdays at the Libra Room but I haven't made it out to one of those shows yet. 

Still - nice that the local scene has so much great stuff happening. And Slow is this coming weekend! I was very happy to see Tom checkin' in to make sure I have tickets. It will be my second time seeing Slow, after their legendary opening set for the Cramps some 30 years ago! (Tom also informed me on Facebook that the song they played that night, an awesome, unrecorded mid-tempo number that I always took to be titled "Beat the Creature," was in fact called "Meet the Preacher," and was written about Ken Lester. Somehow I was disappointed to learn this!

Meantime, here are some photos from last night's Cousin Harley show. I shot video of  the band doing Johnny Horton's "I'm Coming Home" and Merle Travis' "Re-Enlistment Blues," enjoyed the heck out of the song "Yonder Comes a Sucker," which I'd never heard before, and got a 7" of the same, which was being given away free with CD purchases (they were more-or-less unreleased rarities that got damaged in a flood in Cousin Harley's manager's basement). Paul also covered Ray Condo's "Hadicillin Boogie," which was a real treat, and a Tennessee Ernie Ford song that he'd only recently discovered, "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry." (Tennessee Ernie Ford wasn't just a gospel guy but did rockabilly, too). About the only disappointment - speaking of Tennesee Ernie Ford - was that there was no performance of "Sixteen Tons," by far the best known Merle Travis song, due to Ford's template-setting cover of it. I cleared a vid I shot of Paul's ironic metal/ rockabilly adaptation of, what was it, "Flight of the Bumblebee," so as to have space on my phone for "Sixteen Tons" - and then they didn't play it!

Great band, though, and Blue Smoke is a lot of fun. Pretty happy with this sequence of pics I took, too, testifying to the newfound beardlessness of Jesse Cahill and the theatrical expressivity of bassist Keith Picot. I bet Adam PW Smith and Bob Hanham got even better ones.

Got lots to do this next week, so no more for me from awhile, unless this Pere Ubu thing that I put out there into the world comes together. (That's Nov. 30, also at the Rickshaw).

All photos by Allan MacInnis, not to be reused without permission...

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Cousin Harley at the Rickshaw tonight!

Paul Pigat/ Cousin Harley by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission

Almost everything I have to say about Paul Pigat and Cousin Harley is in my feature on the Georgia Straight this week - though in fact, "Fat Girl" goes a little further beyond the pale than I call Paul on (there's a joke about rendering her for her lard!), and I didn't use ONE story that Paul told me - about an eBay/ border messup involving a vintage guitar he was buying:

"That guitar got detained by eBay's global shipping department because they claimed it was in violation of the CITES act (ban on rosewood). The sad part was that it didn't contain any of the banned woods, and was made prior to the ban and was exempt anyway. I fought with them for weeks. Sadly no one knows what happened to the guitar now and I will think twice before buying anything through them again. I'm still pissed!"

Otherwise go read the Straight article - much LONGER online than in the print version, note! At the Rickshaw tonight. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The less you know about Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, the more you will enjoy the film. Which poses a quandry for people who want to write about it and serve a readership (though it does spare me having to fully come to terms with the content).

Here are some spoiler-free obersevations, however.

First, let me declaim that Martin McDonagh is one of my favourite current filmmakers, and certainly my favourite working more or less in the field of black comedy. It is true that none of his three feature films quite equals, in  outlandishness, emotional impact or savage bite Todd Solondz' 1998 masterpiece Happiness - which surely (with apologies to Terry Zwigoff, Bobcat Goldthwait, the Coens, and such) is the greatest, most squirm-inducing, and funniest dark comedy of the last 20 years - but they have a bit more weight to them, are bit more socially engaged, more "responsible." Love Happiness as I do, it is impossible not to watch it - the tale of a pedophile and his extended family - in horror the first time through, embarrassed to laugh, unsure it is safe, challenged to find a comfortable moral perspective from which to view it, and even though I've come to love it and accept it and can laugh quite wholeheartedly along now, I'm not entirely sure that it isn't ultimately reducible to a misanthropic self-indulgence, and a guilty pleasure at best, brilliant and funny and, well, pleasurable as it is. And none of Solondz' subsequent films seem to ratify my love for that one, not even his ostensible sequel to it, Life During Wartime, which was the last of his films I attempted, having liked none of the others. (Are Dark Horse and Wiener-Dog worth seeing? Should I care? I don't, that's how much I liked everything post-Happiness). 

On the other hand, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards are an amazing run of wins, showing Martin McDonagh getting more confident and creative each time. Especially if taken in concert with Martin's brother John Michael McDonagh's movies, The Guard and Calvary - which share some similarities in tone and content - there are very interesting thematic recurrences, from rage at Catholic pedophilia (most thoroughly realized in Calvary but relevant to In Bruges and Three Billboards) to playing with politically unacceptable speech to (only in Martin's case so far) an interest in casting dwarves (note: Jordan Prentice, from In Bruges, is NOT Peter Dinklage, who appears in Three Billboards; there was a time that I mistook the men for each other, I am embarrassed to admit). Not sure what that last thing is about - a way of poking fun at taboos about political correctness while still sticking with white men, the safest butt of any joke these days, as their target? - but the fact that Martin McDonagh has worked with two different dwarves in two different films suggests that it is not the actor he is interested in but having a dwarf IN his movies... unless maybe he wrote Three Billboards with Jordan in mind, and then Jordan couldn't do it...

There's also perhaps a politically questionable element of finding redeeming qualities in men who do, say, or believe inexcusable things, in all of these films. Both In Bruges and Calvary have very specific things to say about the nature of forgiveness and redemption, which may connect to the McDonaghs having been raised Catholic (no idea if they were). But it remains that case that Colin Farrell in In Bruges, Sam Rockwell in Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards, and/or Brendan Gleeson in (John Michael McDonagh's) The Guard, all do horrible/ unforgivable things at times, including assaulting Canadian strangers for being presumed Americans (In Bruges); killing a priest (In Bruges); working as hired killers (In Bruges); kidnapping dogs, lying wholesale, and irresponsibly suckering friends into a bloody and violent standoff (Seven Psychopaths); torturing people of colour (Three Billboards); and/or - in all of these films - indulging in epithets that are racist, sexist, or - what do you call prejudice against dwarves, anyways, heightism?* It's worth querying WHY we want to redeem such men: there's something of Clint Eastwood's very forgiving portrait of a cranky old racist in Gran Torino in these characters, especially in the case of Sam Rockwell in Three Billboards. McDonagh makes his characters work harder at their redemption, and - in Three Billboards - balances that tale of redemption against an apparent complete and utter lack of forgiveness for the perpetrator of a different crime. But I could see critics on the left finding fault here, am not entirely sure how I feel about the politics of these movies, ultimately.

But screwit: Three Billboards is really really fun. It's filled with surprises. It relates in interesting and timely ways to "call-out culture," though it predates that.  I liked Frances McDormand in it much, much more than I've enjoyed her in any of the Coens' films save for Blood Simple (I thought her characters in Fargo and Burn After Reading were far too much caricatures). She's great. Sam Rockwell is great. Woody Harrelson has started of late to be just too damn Woody Harrelson for me, but his performance is fine and he gets some of the most touching lines. Caleb Landry Jones remains a consitently interesting presence on screen, and gets some really fun lines too; and John Hawkes makes a great asshole ex-husband. I am actually not sure WHAT the political implications of the film are, from its attitude to direct action and vigilantism to the aforementioned redemption of ugly male characters, but it will certainly keep you attentive, and certainly will leave you with food for thought. It might not be a safe film for everyone - it's strange to me that in the age of the trigger warning, movies as provocative as this seem to be universally loved - but it's probably going to prove one of the most well-remembered and regarded movies of 2017. (One of the rare negative reviews of the film also targets McDonagh's choice of who to redeem and why, but it's got a fairly accurate description of the film, if you're looking for more; I've avoided revealing any plot details, however, so you might have a chance to go in fairly fresh, but I agree with this critic, I think, that the film's last act is its weakest; I didn't care, though).

Anyhow, I recommend it. 

*And yep, prejudice against dwarves is called "heightism."

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

storc, BRASS, HEDKS SBC gig Nov. 18th

So I did that big Vicious Cycles piece and was kinda relieved: whew, one more article off my plate! Just gotta finish a couple other things that I've been working on - bev davies, Art Bergmann, Pere Ubu, Flesh Eaters, and maybe some older stuff I have long wanted to tidy up, and then I'm FREE, I can be FREE, I have no new bands I have to wr...

...oh, yeah, there's the Slow reunion, and Red Herring have a new album, and Coach StrobCam have a gig on Friday and then there's David M's Christmas show and..., no, no: I have bills to pay! I need work! I can't be distracting myself any further - I need to be EXTRACTING myself from the non-lucrative world of music journalism, where 90% of what I do gets no pay beside the odd guestlisting, usually for gigs I don't end up making it to ANYHOW... like the joke goes, I'm gonna die of exposure if I don't stop, I need a FULL TIME JOB, and soon, and one that doesn't end in the union going on strike (leading to layoff of all junior staff), or the company going bankrupt, or the contract ending and being rejigged or...

...And then I stop in Neptoon Records, and (Vicious Cycles drummer) Ben Frith wants to give me an album, for another band he's in.

No, NO Ben Frith, I... a vinyl album? For free? Um.

Well I can LISTEN to it. (What's the line in The Godfather III again?).

And damn it: I like it. storc - all lower case - is a noisy, slightly spazzy* (more-or-less) punk band (featuring local stalwart Luke Meat on vocals) that reminds me immediately of another great noisy, slightly spazzy local punk band, BRASS, whose debut album, No Soap Radio, I reviewed here. And it's not actually that off the mark as a comparison, since as soon as I mention BRASS to Ben in a Facebook message he writes,

"Hey Allan! We love BRASS! They're one of our favourite bands to play with, in fact, we held off on doing our release show until they were back in town from their tour." (And as you will see, the two bands are soon to play together at the SBC Cabaret...).

BRASS vocalist stage dives while James of Bison works the merch table, June 2016; photo by Allan MacInnis

The new storc album gets a fuller writeup, not by me, in Exclaim! There are things in it I had not noticed or thought about the album, myself, but "unhinged" is definitely a good word for their music. It's certainly the most sonically brute stuff that I'm aware of Joshua "Magneticring" Stevenson having a hand in - though I haven't followed everything he's done, and there may well be some subtleties in the music that I didn't fully appreciate, since what I noticed most on spinning it was the primal (if tuneful) ROAR the band makes... My main observation/ question for Ben is that the liner notes say the sessions for the LP were recorded in 2014. So what's with the delay in the release?

Ben responds: "We really took our time in between giving mix notes. We actually didn't have final mix until July 2015. We weren't in a hurry, and nobody knew we had it coming, so anytime we got a mix, we'd sit on it for a while before sending in notes. I think we only did a couple of minor revisions, but we wanted to know we were happy with it instead of rushing. I guess the delay between then and now would be that we all just got super busy. Matt went on a couple of longer vacations, I went on tour for a couple months, Luke went away as well. Just never got to all sit down and get the rest of it done (art, etc). The really ironic thing is, we are going into the studio to record our 2nd LP this weekend....being the weekend before we release the first one, haha!"

It actually sounds like a pretty good way to do things, though it does make me wonder why I haven't ever heard of storc before, if they've been around since 2011 (but I don't have my ear THAT close to the ground). Anyhow, it looks to be a great cheap gig to be at - I mean, $10 is gonna buy you more manic energy, sweat, and moshable music than you're gonna get in a year at Rogers Arena, no matter who is playing.

But speaking of arena shows - I actually fucked up in that Straight Vicious Cycles piece, it turns out. I knew that Ben had toured Europe with Black Sabbath; Rob had mentioned it to me, and then I saw Ben on the Main Street bus and heard about it from him direct over the time it took to get from Neptoon to the Skytrain Station. But I misremembered key details: he was NOT actually a Black Sabbath drum tech (he tells me he didn't mind the error, though, because it makes him sound cooler than he actually is!). While we're chatting, I ask him to clarify, and he explains that he "worked as the drum tech for Rival Sons for the three Canadian shows, and then they hired me as a bass and keyboard tech for the European tour (also opening for Sabbath). Which was extra funny, because I can't play bass or keyboards!"

Black Sabbath drum tech indeed. Oops.

Anyhow, I doubt very much that I will be at the SBC Cabaret on Saturday, for the Womankind/ HEDKS/ BRASS/ storc album release show, but I have seen two out of four bands on the bill, and spun vinyl of the headliner, and enjoyed them all a ton. HEDKS (rhymes with "Smashface") is the band of one of the Art Signfied people who I now know primarily by her Facebook monicker, Taser Fraser. BRASS have one of the more furious, fun, stage-divin'-centric live shows out there. And storc sound to be great - energetic, unruly, not without a sense of tunefulness or artistry but also noisy and hyper and - I would call them "shambolic," since "unhinged" is taken, except "shambolic" suggests something slow, and there's nothin' slow about storc, howevermuch of a (controlled) shambles may be found on the album.

So check it out.

*note: "spazzy" is meant as a term of praise

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Time out, plus some photos from the East Van Opry last night

So if I have my way I'm going to do only a few more bits of writing before Christmas, barring offers of paying work or events or concert announcements I cannot ignore: something on Pere Ubu, if the band makes time for it, and part twos for my Art Bergmann and bev davies interviews (for Big Takeover and BC Musician, respectively; part ones of both either are or should be out soon).

There is also, of course, the Flesh Eaters in January. I won't be ignoring them, and neither should you! Epochal gig, their first Vancouver show, with members of X, the Blasters, and Los Lobos, and some of the most pulpily literate, B-movie-steeped lyrics ever written (by Chris D., Yakuza movie expert, filmmaker, actor, programmer, novelist, and one of the most unique vocalists in punk). As far as I know, Mo has not yet picked an opening act (or hasn't announced one). It should be someone super cooooool, who understands the honour they have of playing in front of this band for their first show in Canada... I am excited to see who it will be.

Of course, concertwise, we're all fretting about whether we're going to get to see Slow (or griping that the first show announced now ends up the second show, which is, in fact, a bad form thing to gripe about if you're talking to people who didn't get a ticket at all). But there's lots else of note coming up. My favourite local reunion act, Red Herring, has a gig at the Princeton coming up (Nov. 11th I think), and a new album in the can, to my understanding (!). And there's Coach StrobCam, and then David M is going to be doing something (I think at the Heritage Grill) next Monday (I think it is) to replace the gig that got cancelled. You can find all that on Facebook though. (David usually posts gigs in the NO FUN: the Beatles of Surrey group. Join it).

I am open to offers of paying work, for the record - the more steady and lucrative the better, of course. Scraping by has become a stone drag. Writer, ESL teacher, tutor, proofreader, whatever (but I don't drive, am scared of tools, and hate heights, so no roofing or cab drivin' for me). Feel free to get in touch (maybe leave me a comment on this post). Al needs work.

Meantime, he doesn't need the distraction of writing.

But as a partin' shot for now, I caught most of the East Van Opry last night, then realized after we'd ducked out (to run an errand at the SBC pertaining to the Vicious Cycles gig - I delivered a Stiff Little Fingers DVD for JJ) that we'd missed the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, assuming they played. The surprise was CR Avery, who was much, much more dynamic as a performer than I ever realized, doing "white James Brown" kinda interpretations of Dolly's "9 to 5," "Be My Baby," and - demanding people get up and dance - "Walkin' on Sunshine," interspersed with spoken word poetry (which was pretty good, too, though I hope the line about playing someone's "tulip [two-lip] harmonica" was intended to get laughs). There was lots else to like, though. My favourite song of the night was a guy who called himself "Johnny 99" - John Sponarski? - who I can find no trace of online, but who sang a very potent song called "Bad Habits." Dawn Pemberton gave the vocal performance of the night on a very moving rendition of "Oh Susanna" (yep). Squirrel Butter was the most authentically Appalachian act and made the best use of their feet. And through almost every act, Paul Rigby sat at his guitar, hearing acts he'd never heard before play songs he'd never heard before, and - concentration briefly flickering on his expressive, earnest face - would find a way to add steel guitar licks (pedal steel? lap steel? I actually don't really know the difference) to their music, almost always right on the money, smiling more often than he grimaced at his own playing (though he did that a couple of times, too! He obviously knew Geoff Berner's stuff the best, but he produced the album! And thanks, Paul, for getting Geoff to do "Phony Drawl;" I hadn't seen that one live yet). Rigby deserves some sort of award for his contributions to local music in recent years, also including his work on Art Bergmann's superb The Apostate).

So - some photos. All by me, use them if you can. Here's Annie Lou, putting the death back into country:

Eli West...

Host Kyle Bottom, joking about his (pretty great) facial hair:

Bassist from the Airstreams, with better facial hair still:

John Sponarski:

Dawn Pemberton...

Squirrel Butter (second photo with added Carolyn Mark cheering section!).

C.R. Avery (with some Kathleen Nisbet backup vocals):

C.R.'s accompaniment for the "Walkin' on Sunshine" finale:

"Professor Banjo" leading square dances:

Square Dance:

The Alimony Brothers (Erika didn't like the singer's pants but I do!).

People dancing to the Alimony Brothers:

Kim Beggs:

Paul Rigby cheering Geoff Berner:

Geoff Berner:

Carolyn Mark, Paul Rigby, Geoff Berner, and a guy in a hat:

What I thought was the finale:

Where I went next:

That's all I got, folks! Good luck getting into Slow, maybe see y'all at Red Herring or David M.