Thursday, August 24, 2023

JFK End-of-Summer Blow Out! Plus a Minimalist Jug Band interview (also re John Cooper Clarke, John Otway)

Somewhere I have a photo of Bud Luxford and Jack "Fucking" Keating, sitting together at the Fairview, where we'd gathered to see the Wett Stilettos and the Furies, I think it was (or maybe it was Circus in Flames and the Graham Brown Band?)... but I promised Bud I wouldn't use it (didn't promise I wouldn't mention it!). 

It's fitting to see the two men together. For years, Luxford was Vancouver's Fuck Band impresario, the man who organized Budstock and put out two rather famous comps made up of celebrated Vancouver musicians, playing off-instrument and having fun. Want to hear Jimbo and the Lizard Kings -- Phil Smith's playful venture into Doors territory -- doing "Coming for You, Little Girl?" Big fan of Rude Norton (with Wimpy of the Subhumans on vocals and/or bass?). Want to hear the Dishrags in Supremes mode? Just curious what the hell the Sgt. Nick Penis band might be (different lineups included celebrated first-gen Vancouver punks like Randy Rampage, Dave Gregg, Brad Kent, Zippy Pinhead, Chuck Biscuits and/or Tony Bardach)...? Luxford's albums have the answer, a snapshot of a scene with too few bands, but with creativity to spare and bills to fill, spilling out over the edges of their more famous incarnations, trying things you wouldn't necessarily expect, often with a lot of humour, and sometimes with staying power (Ian Tiles still occasionally resurrects Buddy Selfish, though I gather he wasn't thrilled with some of the recorded evidence on the Luxford albums, and Los Popularos, whose first release, I believe, was on a Luxford record as Los Radicos Popularos, are the subject of a recent retrospective digital double album from Porterhouse).  

If you can't afford the original vinyl editions (pricey, out of print) you can actually find both volumes of the Luxford comps for download online (both from 1981, apparently, even volume two... beware dodgy ads, but the dls do work). If you're just curious, want to know more, there is a section of the Bloodied But Unbowed website devoted to Fuck Bands. You can also find my old interview with Jack Keating on the Straight website, explaining what Fuck Bands are and why he decided to revitalize the tradition; I don't know if Jack would agree that he's filling Bud's shoes here, but he's certainly curated some much-loved events over the years. And there is a new one you can go to on September 8th -- the first JFK gig since COVID swept through town! 

Jack in the wild, getting his NO FUN poster signed, maybe?

The press release for the upcoming event at LanaLou's is as follows:

End-of-Summer Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout! Vancouver – 

JFK Productions and Northern Electric proudly announce the End-of-Summer Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout!, featuring the return of JFK Friday, Sept. 8, 2023 at LanaLou’s (362 Powell St.). 

JFK, an all-star rock ‘n’ roll band, will be joined on stage by several guest vocalists, including Eddy Dutchman, Jimmy Roy, Dennis “The Reveller” Brock, Jen Hinton, Sinead X Sanders and more! The star-studded night also includes the World Debut of Jen Rocks with JFK and performances by the Furniture, Arsenic And Old Lace, the Minimalist Jug Band and Hula Hoopin’ with Shannon [no obvious links to that but I think literal hula hoops may be involved].

The show is in memory of Bob Mercer and Tom Harrison, two legendary figures in the Vancouver music scene and B.C. journalism. Bob died on Feb. 26, 2021 while Tom died on Dec. 27, 2022. Bob performed many times as a special guest vocalist with JFK, including the band’s World Debut show Friday, Sept. 15, 2012 at the Railway Club. He also performed at JFK’s last show Friday, Sept. 7, 2018 at the Railway. Tom, as a music writer for the Georgia Straight and The Province for 42 years (1975-2017), was a staunch supporter of the punk, rockabilly and alternative music scene, including JFK band members and virtually all the musicians performing at the End-of-Summer Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout! 

It’s JFK’s first show in five years. (JFK’s May Day Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout!, May 1, 2020 at the Railway was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Featuring luminaries of the local alternative music scene, JFK salutes Vancouver’s punk rock and rockabilly past and the energy and excitement of rock ‘n’ roll from 1955 to 2023. JFK, a fuck band with no limits, consists of Vancouver all-stars: Joe Rotundo (the Modelos, Joe Rotundo & The Interstellar Riders, Bughouse 5, the Enablers); Michael Van Eyes (the Rocket Revellers, Stingin’ Hornets, Trespassers, the Mike Van Eyes Band); Gord “Gorehound” Smithers (the Deadcats, the Highsiders, 2-Bit Horse, SWANK, the New V-2’s, Bob Mercer & the Red Stars); Bobby Beaudine (Torpedo Lover, Eddy D & the Sex Bombs, Frank Frink Five, Buddy Selfish & His Saviors, Mud Bay Blues Band, Bob Mercer & the Red Stars), and Kevin Keating (JP5, Kreviss). 

A bevy of Vancouver all-stars will join JFK on LanaLou’s stage for the End-of-Summer Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout! Eddy Dutchman (the Me Bats, Ace, Eddy D & and the Sex Bombs, the Liquor Kings); Jimmy Roy (the Rocket Revellers, Petunia & the Vipers, the Do-Rites, Kelly Haigh and the Murder Birds, Arsenic And Old Lace, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys); Dennis “The Reveller” Brock (the Rocket Revellers); Jen Hinton (Arsenic And Old Lace); Sinead X Sanders (The Sinead X Sanders Band, Arsenic And Old Lace) are among the special guest vocalists. The stellar night also features the Furniture (a hard rockin’ trio of Aramis Starfish, Johnny Wildkat and drummer Lana of LanaLou’s). Arsenic And Old Lace, who have taken the city by storm since their debut show last August 24th (2022) before a packed house at the Princeton Pub, are a harmony based roots/rockabilly band led by the dynamic duo of Jen Hinton and Sinead X Sanders. Jen and Sinead are joined by rockabilly legends Jimmy Roy and drummer Sandy Bone Smith and Joseph Lubinsky-Mast on stand up bass. The Minimalist Jug Band (a.k.a. Al Mader) brings his quirky take on the world to LanaLou’s after previously opening for Nick Cave (Toronto), Petunia (Eastern Canada and the Maritimes) and the Circus In Flames CD Release Party for “Outside America” at the Anza Club. And the always popular Hula Hoopin’ with Shannon is back for another encore performance at the JFK End-of-Summer Rock ‘N’ Roll Blowout! 

It’s going to be a night of knock your socks off rock ‘n’ roll. Doors at 8 p.m. and show at 8:30 p.m. 

“It’s going to be fun,” said Lana.

Apropos of this stellar night, Alienated in Vancouver has interviewed Al Mader, AKA the Minimalist Jug Band, about his history and songwriting. For consistency of illustration, all images have been lifted from this video clip, involving both Al and his oft-collaborator Petunia. Besides the Sept. 8th gig, you'll have a future opportunity to see Al on November 4th, when he opens for John Otway (returning to Vancouver for a full gig, after a brief blip in North Vancouver some months ago). You'll also probably be able to spot Al in the crowd for John Cooper Clarke... more on whom later... 

Since Al and I are both Al's, I have persisted with my tradition of italicizing my questions, and NOT italicizing his answers. 

Al: Could you walk us through the creation of the Minimalist Jug Band? I'm presuming it began with writing; were you performing it as slam poetry before you decided to self-accompany? Did anyone's suggestions or influence play a role? Where and when was your first gig as the Minimalist Jug Band?

Al: I first performed in Toronto at an "Elvis Monday" run by host William New and his band Groovy Religion. I returned and performed regularly -- accapella, initially, then pots and pans. Then a friend, Tom McConkey, wanted to form a jugband and gave me the washtub. That didn't happen for awhile, but I did end up busking with him regularly about six months later. By then I had incorporated it [ie., the washtub bass] into my act and started referring to it as the Minimalist Jug Band. 

Slam poetry didn't exist at that time. I stumbled across it in Vancouver years later. 

If I recall correctly, you've not only named John Cooper Clarke and John Otway as influences and inspirations. With both men coming to town (in September and November, respectively), could you walk us through:

a) How you got into their work? (My first exposure to either was through Urgh! A Music War [Clarke, Otway] but it seems like you might have had more opportunities to see them in Toronto?).

b) Any experiences of seeing them live (or interacting with them) that make for a good story?

c) A specific thing that you got from each man, either as writer or performer? (Can you pin down HOW they influenced you?). Alternately, just a favourite THING about them, as writer or performer? Favourite songs, favourite lines, favourite aspects of what they do live?

d) You SAW Mr. Clarke when he was last in town. How was that? What stands out as a high point?

First time seeing Otway was at the "Police Picnic," a festival outside of Toronto with the Specials, Iggy Pop, Killing Joke, etc. He came out singing "Green Green Grass of Home," a British folkie at a new wave/ punk concert. At first I was, "What the hell is this," then I caught on to his "mock rock" self-defecating sense of humour. [Note: I am typing this from Al's handwriting but yeah, it really does read self-defecating, not self-deprecating; he even put quotation marks around it to make sure I knew it was deliberate wordplay].

By the end of the set I was a fan and thought to myself that this was an approach I could see myself taking. I had only played drums and written a couple of songs, at that point. 

But Otway pushed the boundaries of what might be considered punk, as did John Cooper Clarke. I saw Otway many times in Toronto, opening for the Cure, and"the Two Johns" with John Cale at Yuk Yuks, doing his cartwheels while playing guitar and setting his hair on fire as a tribute to Michael Jackson's Pepsi Cola ad misadventure, tormenting his roadie with his careless microphone stands...

John Cooper Clarke's music (I always thought of him as a songwriter) was brought to my attention by a girlfriend who had just come back from Australia. "Beasley Street" made an immediate impression. Never saw him live or even heard of him performing in Canada until the show at the Biltmore, which I thought was great... sharp-witted, sharp dressed, satirical and sartorial splendor, his self-contained introverted style a complete contrast to John Otway's manic exuberance. I wonder if they've ever performed together? Clarke's "Official Guest List" always cracks me up and is a good example of how, like Otway, he embraces and mocks rock success and excess. Seeing Otway do cartwheels with his guitar, set his hair on fire, rip his shirt open, then unexpectedly play a riff or two on the violin was an eye opener.  

The thing I was most influenced by was their way of carving their own niche out of stubbornness. They let their personalities flourish without constraints or expectations.

Were there other performance poets that you had a kinship with or were influenced by? I am particular curious about US vs UK poets; I mostly know the Dial-a-Poet people, people associated with Giorno, but I don't see you having much in common with them... it seems kind of odd that the poets that I associate you with (Attila the Stockbroker might also be a kindred spirit, maybe?) all seem to be from the UK... but I don't know my slam poetry; maybe you have kindred spirits in that realm?

I've seen Jim Carroll, Patti Smith, and Lou Reed perform many times. I've always thought of them as songwriters first. I've listened and paid attention to song lyrics all my life; it is hard to say what comes from where... though I suspect that a lot of the songwriters I've admired were second- and third-generation Dylan fans. Saw John Giorno open for William Burroughs in Toronto at Gary Topp's club The Edge... 

When I first started showing up at the Elvis Mondays post-punk cabaret in Toronto, a few other performers who were also regulars were Meryn Cadell and Tony Blue, AKA Tony Burgess, author of Pontypool Changes Everything. Neal Arbic of A Neon Rome also did some solo performance art at that time. I mostly opened for bands and I went to see bands and movies on the nights I wasn't working or performing. Occasionally, I'd be asked to do poetry events -- shows with late poet/ writer "Jones" (full name Daniel Jones) and long time friend Susan Parker. 

Do you describe yourself as a songwriter or performer or poet, or... Is there a niche you fit in? Who do you like, poetry-wise? 

I've been allowed to hang around the periphery of a few scenes, but probably songwriter/ performance artist is most accurate (though "performance artist" always sounds like there is grant money involved). 

As for local poets... I have a lot of admiration and respect for Rodney DeCroo's projects; from the slam scene, RC Weslowski and Fernando Raguero are my go-to's.

Do you have a Hasil Adkins story? I think you kind of admire him; did you ever interact? Since I don't know where the gold is, do you have ANY fun stories of heroes/ inspirations/ influences that you got to interact with? (A Nick Cave story? [Al opened for him in Toronto]).

Re: Hasil Adkins, Chris Houston was going to be his manager at one point but I understand the guns blazing away in the trailer gave Chris second thoughts. Listened to Hasil a lot one tour east with Petunia, his stuff is great for psyching yourself up for a gig. 

Nick Cave was great and everyone treated me well but no crazy story.

Did Bud Luxford ever see you perform? Ever cross paths?

I don't think so.

Aha. So have you been involved in a Jack Fucking Keating event before? Do you have a history with Jack? Is there some special reason he involved you in this year's JFK event? Are you doing anything particular?

When I returned to Vancouver in 1991 [after Al's years in Toronto], whenever I went to hear music, I began to notice that if it was going to be a good night, there was always this guy in the crowd. Eventually I found out that was Jack, and he is still at all the best gigs. His JFK events are a lot of fun.

I gather you like to play the ponies. Tell me a bit about yourself and the horse races. Do you have a philosophy of betting? (I think Bukowski used to advocate for just betting one horse to win, no show-or-place nonsense, and I don't think he trucked with triactas or quinellas or such).

Bet however you want, as long as you know who you're cheering for. Don't bet too much. Have fun. 

What card games do you and Petunia play? Do you play cards for money, or...? Does one of you win more than the other?

French Whist, though the French probably call it something else. Texas Hold'em (poker) for cash, other games for glory. 

Besides the JFK gig in September and the Otway gig in November, do you have any other performances planned? (You seem less active than you used to be, wonder if COVID lessened your enthusiasm for performing...?).

Nothing planned. Phone's not ringing and I have other obligations, but still have enthusiasm. 

Re; "I'm a Lousy Lay," I was just curious, did you actually read much Jean Paul Sartre? What, specifically, and how did that work out for you? (I was more of a Nietzsche man myself but I'm always curious what writers influence people, philosophical or otherwise...).

Sartre's Being and Nothingness wasn't exactly a potboiler but when I was 20ish, the Age of Reason trilogy was one of my favourites. Simone  de Beauvoir's novels also did the trick. 

Anything else you would like to say about ANYTHING AT ALL?

Go see John Cooper Clarke.

Go see John Otway.

Go see the race horses. 

[And go see Al at this year's JFK event!]

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