Can I really write a “tourblog” if the gig is only 25 minutes from my house? I guess we’ll find out eh?
The joint we’re playing at “Que’s Riverbottom” is a little hole-in-the-wall out in the Valley. For folks who don’t know L.A… ‘the valley’ is an area north of Los Angeles proper… mostly suburban, square houses, nicely tracted, and an easy to understand grid of streets running east west and north-south. Usually folks who live in the valley don’t really come “over the hill” (the hollywood hills) to the city and people who live in the city don’t really “go over the hill” to the valley. Theres a bit of bi-directional snobbery inherent in this situation. I used to live in the valley… North Hollywood to be exact, about 5 minutes away from this club, then i got sick of the heat (its noticably warmer in the valley) and sick of the suburban vibe, and sick of the smog (its noticably smoggier in the valley) so i moved to the beach. then i moved from the beach to Silverlake/Los Feliz which is kinda like the hills just east of hollywood… i think. (There will be a Los Angeles geography test at the end of this entry so study up!!!)
So one of the problems with playing “in the valley” is this: only folks who live in the valley or north of the valley or east of the valley (pasadena) thereabouts will come to the show. Honestly. There is some kind of dividing line that peeps wont cross. I don’t see it but its there. Que’s is located in Burbank, in a “‘Burb” directly next to a “Bank” of America. Hahhahah… get it… Burb-bank…. eh. Right. Ok… newtron and I used to play at this place all the time with FOOD and we used to draw a pretty nice crowd… we’d play for 4 hours, everybody would get tanked and the roof would blow off the joint. Que’s is owned by this lovely Thai woman named… “Que” (not Que as in Que Pasa? but Que like cue ball) Then and now Que has in her employ a bevy of beautiful young Thai women who are there to service your every needs. No, it isn’t a brothel, but it probably could be, and very well may be… i don’t know. One evening during the FOOD show, real late – 1AM or so… we’re tearing it up and i looked up to see three of these waitresses in miniskirts dancing on top of the bar and the patrons (most of whom are grips and other movie crew employees from the Warner Brothers Studios which is directly accross the street) are all sitting on their barstools raising their drinks to the sky and looking up the womens short skirts. Needless to say i found this to be an interesting experience… and i was proud to be part of this party even if it wasn’t occouring in my pants at that given moment. So historically Ques has been an interesting weird place, tucked in a crevace in the Hollywood Hills, just over the imaginary Valley borderline.
I haven’t been back to this place in a coupla years… since FOOD retired in September 2001. Its gonna be interesting to say the least.
On the bill tonight is Michael Simmons, musician/journalist/eccentric/visionary and self described “menace.” I’ve known Michael for a good three years and never found him to be a menace, but he does love the booze as much me. (We had a coupla drinks together a week or so ago at the Mr. Smolin/Gwendolyn/Anus show at Taix Lounge.) He’s a real character to say the least. Evidently, Michael used to front the band Michael Simmons and Slewfoot back in the 70s who were the originators of what has become “cow punk” – they played hard core country with punk attitude. Awesome. He also had The Michael Simmons Band after Slewfoot got glued, and he’s put out numerous albums and singles over the years till eventually he retired from the music business and became a rock journalist. He’s written for every magazine out there, but mostly writes for The L.A. Weekly – i think (L.A.s Village Voice type dealie). Tonight is Simmons’ first gig in about 10 years… and its gonna be an event… i’m psyched to be sharing the bill with him.
Miss Monkay and I rolled into the joint at 7 or so, early enough so i could case the joint out and set up my recording equipment to get tapes of the whole evenings’ festivities. Monkay found a table towards the back by the soundboard, i plugged in my taping apparatus and got it all primed to roll… Simmons came by and we chit chatted a bit, evidently he’s got the flu. Shortly thereafter a shitload of people started rolling into the club, till it was pretty much packed. I ordered some food from the bar and had some beers (Newcastle and Cream Cheese filled Wontons – good stuff!) Shortly after setting up, every Deadhead’s imaginary friend Barry Smolin (dosen’t live in the valley), host of KPFK’s “The Music Never Stops” radio show and genius musician in his own right stopped by and said hello. He’s been playing a bunch of KTF stuff on his radio show in the past few months… anyone with the guts to play our 14 minute freak outs on the FM dial is a total ACE in my book. He’s truly is a sweet and kind fellow, and we’re all totally psyched and honored that he came out to see us.
Eventually I got a little antsy and wandered outside a bit and bumped into genius looptronic guitar phenomenon Andre LaFosse (lives in the valley) then Spinning Mike came by (lives in the valley thats on fire beyond the valley beyond the valley) and Barb Johns rolled up in her amazing car… the whole thing is covered in little Teletype keys of many colors… arranged into a matrix of designs. The hood of the car had Homer Simpson, the roof, yin yang, the rear passenger door Bob Marley, the whole thing just covered. She told us that they were affixed with Silicone Caulk. I havent seen Barb in years and I barely recognized her… she was glowing and looking radiant and gleeful, i didn’t get a chance to really talk with her so i want to send a big “THANKS FOR COMING BARB – I LOVE YOU!” (fyi – lives in the valley east of the valley.) Next to roll up was Aaron Dubois (phenominal drummer of an unnamed band project that ive been working with for a year or so – more details to come in the next coupla months), his friend Chaz(all live in the Valley) then some more of Aarons friends – Melissa and a couple of other folks (Valley). Then Andy Tenn, guitarist with the unnamed project and his friend Dave roll up in a white mustang convertible (Valley) then Bernman and his girlfriend Sylvia (berns is the bass player of the unnamed project – Valley) Then Newtron rolls up, and Pete and his wife Leslie, then Henry (who’s gonna sit in with us – dosen’t live in the valley anymore) then Mrs Newtron rolls up, then DJ Spacelab (Valley beyond the Valley). Then this guy Dave who used to go see FOOD walks up and asks me “Hey man can I get some FOOD tapes?” I politely declined and told him that FOOD is dead, sorry no tapes. He seemed a bit upset. Sorry dude. Do you live in the Valley?
I walked back inside and bumped into John (No Valley) who also used to come see FOOD… i used to hang with John and his ladyfriend Gail at the old Deadhead Night at 14below. i used to go there all the time when i was living by the club they did it at, but since i moved accross town i don’t really go there anymore. Plus i’m lazy. And i don’t really listen to the Grateful Dead all that much anymore either (HORRRORS!) I also got to see Steve Sherriff (no valley) who’s started to do some booking for KTF here in LA. Steve is a great guy and if you do manage to wring a word out of him they’re always on the money. He makes Pete look like Al Sharpton. He likes to keep a low profile… good man. Thanks STEVE! A whole slew of other people showed up as well but i’m not really sure who they were (at least not yet – but ive got some of your email addresses in our book BWAHAHAHAHA!!!) and didn’t really go around asking what area code they live in. Gwendolyn also was at the show… she said to me “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” to which i replied “I was at your show the other night!!!” She’s great… check out her stuff if you get the chance.
By this time Simmons was in full swing of his set… he hit the stage and completely destroyed the place. A Man and his guitar… singing songs, telling stories… at the end of the set he said “I’m back!” The near capacity crowd cheered. He wrapped it up and the second band loaded their stuff onto the stage… including the largest bass amplifier ive ever seen in my life. The band was called “Empty Scenery” and some folks who were there kinda said the name was fitting. I missed most of their set though, i was outside corraling Newtron and Pete and the guys to get their gear over to the door for load in. I did catch one tune which was “Solitary Man” by Neil Diamond. I like Neil Diamond. I saw Mr. Diamond at Madison Square Garden about 12 years ago… he had the best laser show i’ve ever seen… even better than Rush. No kidding.
Not better than Radiohead though… they win the lightshow award hands down.
Empty Scenery finished their set and emptied the stage. We rolled in our crap and started to plug it in. For some reason i was having an incredibly difficult time figuring out what cord goes into what, and i left some powerstrips at home and some cords and had to jerry rig my set up so it would work. For those of you who’ve seen my rig, you know how much shit i’ve got. I’ve got to figure out an easier way… and the only way to figure out an easier way is to buy more shit. Right? I almost feel like I am part owner of Guitar Center these days.
Eventually i got all my shit sorta set up and kinda working, i figured that i’d iron out some of the details during the show. By this time the band were getting antsy and started to space jam… Barry Smolin walked up to the mic and said:
Good evening ladies and gentlemen
ladies and gentlemen
ladies and gentlemen
you thought it was just a dream
but i’m here to tell you its real…
it’s very real
it’s very here
and it’s happening right now
put your lips together… and…
kiss the frog.
sabbath candles indeed.
with shmo’s introduction we slid into a spacy intro drone, very Raga meets NASA kinda vibe… Hank rolled up to the stage and started singing about “blue sky… right now”… gorgeous. the opening oddball latin groove of “The Trojan Horse” rose out of it… pete snakily swinging and playing the whole groove on his whole kit… newtron and i holding down the riff, dj spacelab giving up some wicki-wicki on the turntables, and hank with his guitar playing some muted wacka chickas. we rode the horse right into the fort then took shit over. i noted that since i was wearing my red star trek shirt that i was probably going to die by the end of the set. nyuk nyuk nyuk. surprisingly my silly star trek joke got a pretty good response.
trojan horse segued directly into “hard.” now…. you cant tell from the tape, but during hard i was miming all these heavy metal mannerisms – headbanging, fist-pumping, 6 6 6 chants, the whole shebang… acting as if the mic was off but i didn’t know it. folks were looking around at the sound man (who was outside smoking) and mouthing to me “We can’t hear you”. I guess those lessons at the Andy Kaufman Institute of the Arts are starting to pay off… hahahahaha. At one point i started doing a silent audience participation fist pumping extravaganza… to which the crowd started pumping their fists silently… it was quite funny, and to all of you who participated… thanks for not making me look like more of an ass than i already do. the cheering on the download of the show is when all those shenanigans kinda ended. i picked the guitar back up and took a big rockin solo over the massive headbanging groove that pete and barry laid out for me… and unlike the frog and peach i didn’t kick the plug out of the wall. towards the end of hard i started singing “neon lights” by kraftwerk over the groove… ive been listening to kraftwerk a ton lately. i know its always trendy to say you listen to kraftwerk, but i really do and i fucking love em. it is my way of trying to pay tribute to the great country of german that we wrote “hard” in. did i just type “hard in”? i gotta switch to decaf or go download some Porn.
charles: “we’re having a coupla minor sound difficulties here on stage…”
newtron: “yah… theres no beer up here.”
after hard we played “to your head” and i destroyed the second verse of lyrics yet again. i fucking practiced it for three hours before the show because i didn’t want to embarass jesse by destroying his lyrics yet again. oh well…. next time. after “to your head” i gave the obligatory cocaine speech and we fell into “avalanche” complete with theremin solo and some sax weirdness from DJ Spacelab. After “avalanche” newtron broke out the old Miles Davis tune “Honky Tonk” and Hank came back up to the stage to play it with us. Henry got all up on the mic talking about the myriad functions of his panic button and the horrors and difficulties he has with the people who push his extensively described panic button. Henry is an always creative guy you can never predict what he’s gonna do and that is why i love the man. After “Honky Tonk” we broke into the FOOD chestnut “Math” with Hank playin guitar on it… the middle of it featured this total bebop freak out that got the crowd screaming. This show is getting weirder by the second… we blasted right into another old FOOD number – the Newtron penned “My Mama Was Abducted By An Alien” which we took at breakneck speeds. Henry sang it and wen’t crazy. The whole thing eventually exploded into a ska-deathmetal-bluegrass-on-45 freak out. Nuts.
We closed out the show with a chill rendition of “Destination Imagination” Newtron and I took off our instruments and let our loops go while i sang the last verse. We quietly faded it away… the crowd cheered and we said good night. One set of music – 1 hour and 47 minutes long. John “Fartpenis” said “Thats the best $5 bucks i’ve ever spent in my life.” Thanks John… and thanks for the glass of scotch you bought me at the beginning of the show.. too bad i spilled it on the floor before i got a chance to take a sip.
The crowd filed out smiling… we packed up our sit, said some goodbyes to the nice folks who came and called it a night.
Here’s the setlist:
Friday October 24th 2003 – Que’s Riverbottom – Burbank, CA
Introduction by Barry Smolin
The Trojan Horse * ->
Neon Lights # ->
To Your Head
Honky Tonk % *
Math * ->
My Mama Was Abducted By An Alien *
whole show w/DJ Spacelab – Turntable/Saxophone
* w/ Henry Benjamin – guitar/vocals (FOOD)
% Miles Davis
Pete and Barry and I stuck around a chatted about stuff for a while, then Newtron bolted home before his babysitter sold his daughter on eBay. Pete and I then talked about when we should start recording our next record.
Kiss The Frog “The Trojan Horse” coming to a record store near you sometime in 2004.
Until next time…. -c
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