I walked 10 miles for rock'n'roll
Yesterday evening I went to Brickbat Books
(1.3 miles each way) for a book signing for Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine ’79–’83
and Why Be Something That You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985
. I got there a few minutes late and the author was just standing around chit-chatting and drinking beer. I guess reading a selection from a zine compilation would be weird, but I expected more showmanship.
The zine comp was a nice historical artifact, and I had no idea that one of my favorite record labels--or I should say the label that carried some of my favorite records--originated as a zine in my hometown. But really, reading well-reproduced xerography from the early 80s isn't that fascinating, so when I was informed that I was thumbing through the last sale copy, I gave it up to an older overweight indie rocker.Why Be Something That You're Not
looked more interesting, so I picked up a copy. It looks somewhat amateurish, but the authors clearly knew how to get a hold of a lot of early 80s scenesters for quotes. Some of the stories I read are too good to be true, apocryphal no doubt, but from such threads are minor legends woven. I'm not very familiar with the bands discussed, but the places and the venues alone are entertaining to read about. The places that survived into the 90s are places I've been to see shows, or that I've heard stories about: the Halfway Inn is mentioned numerous times, Todd's in Detroit, a place on M.A.C. Avenue. And while I've never been to Menjo's, I think Bernie said he worked there as a parking lot attendant for a while (if he wasn't pulling my leg).
I'll probably send the book of to Jeremy or Flaster or Sumei after I'm done reading it (let me know if you're interested).
After I picked up the book, I headed over to West Philly (via trolley) for a show at the Danger Danger Gallery
. A band called Pissed Jeans was headlining, and they came highly recommended by Terry. Somehow I actually expected the venue to be an art gallery space, but I knew I'd found it when I found a bunch of white kids standing on the sidewalk in West Philly, smoking cigarettes. I couldn't even tell how I was supposed to get into the place--I just followed some people who didn't exactly look like they knew where they were going, but had numbers on their side. Up a flight of stairs, down a hallway, down a flight of stairs, through a couple rooms--the stage was basically in a living room. Are you too old for shows when you check a venue for smoke detectors and emergency exits, or just paranoid?
I saw four bands--I missed the first. Hot Guts was pretty hit-or-miss 3-piece, although I feel their misses were due primarily to their guitarist/vocalist. His guitar and mic were too prominent in the mix, and although at their best they reminded me of Joy Division, the occasional fake British accent was irritating. Their songs lacked a sense of drama, or tension, and often ended sloppily, for no apparent reason. Their best songs were the best of the show, though. The Fatty Acids, from Milwaukee, played in the basement and after 30 seconds of poppy hipster crap I decided I didn't need to risk hitting my head on an exposed pipe to hear more. Unnatural Helpers, from Seattle (with a record on Subpop), were the tightest band--they played well together--but the surf/rockabilly beats that backed up the garage rock got old fast. A competent drummer, but he only knows one beat.
At last, Pissed Jeans took the stage. The vocalist looked like a pretty normal guy, until he took his shirt off and the music started. A huge guy, both muscular yet sporting a gut, starting writhing and wailing and you were never sure if he was sure if he was singing into his microphone or his can or beer. I ran into Erica, an acquaintance, after the show who suggested catching them at Johnny Brendas, where Ray (?) has more room to roam around. Earlier I had been complaining in my head that hipsters don't move at shows anymore, but the crowd was moving now--I slipped my glasses into my pocket in case I got caught in the fray.
Terry had recommended Pissed Jeans with "If you like The Jesus Lizard..." and I definitely see the connection, although I thought Pissed Jeans was a little sloppy and the songwriting wasn't as good. Part of what made The Jesus Lizard amazing was that the musicians were always in complete control while David Yow acted like a cracked-out monkey on a long tether, and Pissed Jeans only delivered on part of that--although to be fair, the sound system in Danger Danger Gallery wasn't what you'd find at a larger venue, and frankly--I didn't like The Jesus Lizard the first time I saw them. I think that it would be worth checking them out again at Johnny Brendas.
I just missed the last trolley home, so I hoofed it back: 3.4 miles.
According to Google Maps walking directions, I only walked 9.6 miles yesterday, and 3.6 of them were technically just walking to work and back, so I guess I only walked 6 miles for rock'n'roll. Google Maps walking directions are pretty good about taking diagonals through parks--their routes match mine surprisingly well.