Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Cleveland Nostalgia Trip

I've been looking forward to this holiday visit to Cleveland, of course to visit with family and friends there, but also to see another Punk Rock Old Farts Reunion, as Death of Samantha plays the Beachland Ballroom on Friday night. Beachland's bio.

DoS were one of my favorites in the mid-80s. They played around town frequently and always had something interesting to add beyond the songs. DoS reveled in kitchy Americana, and the antics on stage immediately before the rocking were usually hilarious. Drummer Steve-O (waaaaay before the Jackass 'star') wore a coat made of yarn and ineptly bounced on, and fell from, a pogo stick. He did ridiculous send-ups of Joe Cocker and Roy Orbison with lip synchs. He once even emerged from a coffin on stage to say, "Hi folks!" in his cheesy way.

I've been enjoying this run of nostalgia. In the past year and a half, I've seen the following Cle Punk bands, all getting together to do one last hurrah: Children's Crusade, My Dad Is Dead, Numbskull, Oral Authority, Pink Holes, The Plague, and Starvation Army. I never thought I'd see many of these again. I hope I never see the Pink Holes again, as they lost whatever magic they had over time, alas.

I really never expected to see Death of Samantha play. I had the honor of putting together a 'reunion' of theirs that I thought would be the last, back in 1998. My best friend Steve Wainstead was leaving Cleveland for New York City, and I threw a going away party for him. Since I had a club for the event, Pat's In The Flats, I asked if he would like to see any bands play. "Death of Samantha!" was his immediate response... followed by, "Well, if you can get them to do it". It wasn't easy. The band had moved on to become Cobra Verde, but having left Steve-O behind. And, if memory serves, Doug Gillard and Dave Swanson were then also out of Cobra Verde. In any case, there were some old feelings to be dealt with, but gratefully, they were willing to do five songs, really only because it was for Steve. He went all the way back with those guys, having served as driver and roadie for them on tours, and taking the photographs for their album covers. Even then, I really didn't expect to pull it off, because singer John Petkovic has always had a looking forward, never back approach. It didn't surprise me when he struggled to remember words to his own songs, like "Yellow Fever" back in '98, because that stuff was so yesterday.

So, I'm thrilled that all differences are put aside, original bass player Dave James will play, and the band has actually been looking forward to doing this show. I've had a ticket for months. I don't care if it is 'just nostalgia'. The chance to hear these great, fun songs one more time because they want to do it is a great opportunity for me.

So, here are some DoS clips my good friend and old Blows Against The Empire radio co-host Matt Dudas posted this week. Seems he shot them in 1990 at the Babylon A-Go-Go, recently rediscovered the tape, and had it converted to digital so that he could post in advance of the reunion he couldn't attend. I'll keep the chain intact, and will shoot the show so that he and Steve Wainstead, who also can't attend, can see. Well, and you also, dear reader.

And, if you want a whole lot more, check out my podcasts, #12 & #13, which feature a sound board recording of DoS from the Phantasy Night Club in Lakewood OH, and a very chaotic appearance on my radio show, with a live set using improvised instruments in the WCSB record library- both form 1989. Here is the linkage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nativism On Parade In Quebec

I'll never forget the sight of Confederate battle flags flying in rural Quebec, back in 1998. I was floored... until it dawned on me why Quebecois might do so: separatism. They weren't flown for racism, but solidarity with the idea of breaking away. Folks in rural Quebec were very serious about wanting to leave Canada to form their own nation.

Well, if not racism, bigotry still. Get a load of this! The Montreal Canadiens committed a foul offense in the eyes of some in Quebec, and not just armchair powerplay quarterbacks. From ESPN:
The Quebec government isn't pleased about the hiring of a Montreal Canadiens coach who can't speak French.

The province's culture minister says she expects the Habs to correct the situation.

Christine St-Pierre isn't quite calling for the firing of new coach Randy Cunneyworth, who was just hired over the weekend.

But she says the Habs have given the impression his hiring is temporary, and she takes them at their word. The former NHL forward's title is interim coach.

The hiring has created a frenzy of media reaction, including calls for a boycott of products associated with the Canadiens.

Culture minister? This is the sort of Soviet bloc officialdom that I used to make radio satire for. Here's an idea, Christine St-Pierre: How about let the team hire a coach because they think it will lead to winning hockey!

Whoops! The Canadiens have a history of sacrificing things like success, and shit, in exchange for nativist political correctness.
The Habs have not had an only English-speaking coach since the 1970-71 season, when Al MacNeil coached them. They won a Stanley Cup that year but MacNeil had a poor relationship with some players and was demoted to the minors after the season.
Can you believe that nonsense? Hey coach! Yeah, you won the Stanley Cup and all, but off to the AHL with you! Well, MacNeil won the AHL championship next year with Nova Scotia.

As for Cunneyworth, I liked him as a player. He played tough hockey, which was par for his era. But even then, he stood out as a lunch pail kinda player that I favored- like Mike Ricci or Owen Nolan. Coaches are often craft teams like their own on-ice persona. This is why I was a big fan of the Daryl Sutter-coached San Jose Sharks. Sutter had players like Ricci, Nolan, Stephane Matteau, Ronnie Stern, Dave Lowry- real grinders that had heart to spare. If talent didn't get it done, willpower could. If Cunneyworth brings that essence to the Canadiens, Montreal's hockey fans should love him for it. I'd start to like the Canadiens, at least. Right now, I couldn't name more than 6 or 7 of their players, the Canadiens being one of the softest teams in a soft NHL.

The Tale Of Two Playwright/Presidents

Odd coincidence that Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong Il die on the same day. The North Korean dictator's passing is getting all the screaming headlines, which is a shame being that Havel was the punk rock freedom loving dissident who led a bloodless revolution, and Kim Jong Il was the repressive dictator. The loss of the repressive dictator is better news (if death should be so seen), but Havel is the one worth celebrating. From Reason in 2003:

This act of literary punk rock was followed, logically enough, by a defense of rock music that sparked the Charter 77 movement. Or, as Havel told a startled Lou Reed when he met the Velvet Underground's former frontman in 1990, "Did you know that I am president because of you?"

Defending The Plastic People

In 1968 a rare copy of the Velvet Underground's first record somehow found its way to Prague. It became a sensation in music circles and beyond, eventually inspiring the Czech name for their bloodless 1989 overthrow of Communist rule, "the Velvet Revolution." The Plastic People, then a newly formed troupe that borrowed heavily from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, quickly added a half-dozen songs from The Velvet Underground & Nico to their repertoire. The group was banned not long after the Prague Spring concluded but continued to play at weddings and secret shows.

Then, in 1976, four members were arrested on charges of "disturbing the peace." The Czech dissident movement, newly roused by Havel's open letter, made the trial an international cause. Havel, who intuitively grasped the symbolism of the case, was in the courtroom every day to witness and document the judicial farce. Just as George Orwell saw picking up a gun to shoot fascists in the Spanish Civil War as "the only conceivable thing to do," Havel understood this assault on freedom as one outrage too far. It was a turning point in his life. "Everyone understood," he wrote later, "that an attack on the Czech musical underground was an attack on a most elementary and important thing, something that in fact bound everyone together: it was an attack on the very notion of living within the truth, on the real aims of life."

His essay on the trial has the rushed and liberated tone of someone who has just crossed a personal point of no return, or has just heard the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks for the first time. It ends with a classic description of Havel bumping into a film director who didn't understand the sudden enthusiasm for defending some derelict rock musicians.

Inspired by Lou Reed? That's a-ok with me. And sure, Kim Jong Il inspired the South Park guys to do a hilarious send-up of him, still, Havel's the one worth celebrating. CNN report.

The Plastic People of the Universe is Frank Zappa inspired. I remember the shock of listening to this record again around 2004 and thinking how the voice of the 'President' sounded so much like George W. Bush. It made it all the better, if possible: