Sometimes I gotta bite my tongue so hard it bleeds.
I'm realizing (probably too late) that I've jumped the generation gap and crash landed on the far side of clueless - and I don't want or even care to know. It stands to reason - nobody can realistically be expected to make the jump successfully. It’s those of us whose ego demands a certain exhibitionist tendency. It isn’t how well, far or high we can jump. It’s just that somebody else is watching the spectacle. Somewhere in the back of our dim consciousness echoes a certain understanding that nobody is really cheering for you. Oh they’ll watch. But really what they want is a nice gory splatter when you crash.
I don’t intend to give anyone that satisfaction.
This isn't something trivial or an easy ticket to some cheap, quick entertainment for me. I care very deeply about the music of this band; it’s something I take extremely personal. ANTiSEEN represented by their mere existence justification to people not unlike myself - generalized as fuck-ups, losers, weirdos and freaks – a sense of purpose and self-worth. I've always felt it important; a potent and vital link in not only the history of underground music, but of rock and roll in general. ANTiSEEN are one of a thimbleful of bands that have managed to create and work a form that is in and of itself - if not wholly unique - singularly original. As a fan it was part of the appeal; this wasn't a band working in the preconceived easily accepted patterns (i.e. 'hardcore', 'thrash' 'garage rock' or whatever media buzzword you wanna choose), but borrowed, trashed and mangled a little bit of all of it into a sonic sour mash of high proof badassery. It is even more appealing to me now, learning and playing the music and enjoying the differences all the more. I cannot help but think of all the criticism and cynicism I've endured over the years for my love of this band all the while knowing how weak and contrived so many so-called 'hardcore' and 'heavy' bands actually are. What hopelessly concedes to popular taste offers nothing of substantive expression or catharsis. But popularity is almost exclusively governed by the mediocre. Sorry, I ain't impressed by your sorry third rate heavy metal masquerading as ‘hardcore’; I don't care how iconic your logo is.
The holidays are behind us but now we've had to adjust and amend personal and professional schedules to allot sufficient time to practice, write and record. As some of you may be aware we've encountered some difficulties with our practice studio and currently are weighing the options as to the 'where, how and when'. However the forward momentum remains in motion. We'll kick out on the three-count and rally. Meanwhile we've got a handful of song ideas scratched up. Some pre-exist my entry into the band and some are totally new. Barry already has a couple of finished demos that are killer and I've offered some things of my own but I'm not sure how much of it will be used. My songwriting style is a little bit different than Barry's, as his is a little bit different than Jeff's. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how this stew of ideas blends together. So far the feeling I get stylistically is somewhat similar to Southern Hostility. Personally I draw a lot of influence from the 88-93 era. I look at that as a template for what we can do now, both in terms of songwriting and in releasing material. The band was very prolific at that time, releasing a new lp or single on the average of every six weeks. And it was all great stuff. I feel certain we can do it again. The trick nowadays is finding a place in the digitally reshaped landscape of the modern era. Between the performing, songwriting, recording and releasing, it’s all a giant but exciting challenge. We've got some good folks in our corner and I truly believe this line-up has the goods to make it happen.
We recently made a run to Philadelphia, a city where the band has a lot of history and roots. It’s almost a second hometown, so much so they even staged their anniversary show there in 1998. I've been to Philly before with the boys when still working merch, but this was my first time as a performing member. I know this is becoming to sound somewhat redundant, but it was an important show for me. There are a lot of old-school fans there who I felt it was important to impress. Moreover we were playing with longtime brother- bands Hellstomper and Limecell. It was a pretty big deal, billed as "SCARRCADE" in tribute to the old NWA wrestling supershows of long ago. In addition it was an 'after party' for a giant tattoo convention in a neighboring hotel. In short, it was a pretty big deal.
We arrived a day early. The Gooch had scheduled an appointment with Eric Perfect for a tattoo on Friday so we made the all night drive. It was good ride, Clayton drove the whole way while I sat shotgun playing DJ on my trusty old iPod. Unfortunately I was unable to accommodate his requests for Hall & Oats, Cher or Fleetwood Mac no matter how often he asked. Despite this he made good time rolling into Philadelphia just as the sun was rising and beating the rush hour traffic.
We stayed with Geoff Gavin, a longtime friend of the band and lead vocalist of the Bad Vibes. Although he had briefly lived in Charlotte several years ago, I never got to know Geoff very well. This visit allowed me to time to get better acquainted and he proved to be very cool. He generously gave us run of his place, and I picked a spot in an upstairs bedroom to crash. When I awoke that afternoon I was hit with flash of severe nausea. My girlfriend had been sick that week I felt pretty sure I had caught whatever bug she had. I decided to try to sleep it off and missed out on cheesesteaks and a walkabout Philly.
The next day I felt better but a little frazzled. It had started to snow that morning and I wondered if it would affect the turnout. Gavin assured us that it wouldn't. It sometimes is easy to forget the subtle differences between the North and South - what was being called a 'winter storm' back home in Charlotte was simply another Saturday in Philly. We decided to take some time to visit the infamous Mutter Museum, whose collection of medical deviations and oddities was as fascinating as it is depressing. I also couldn't help but notice the security detail making little effort to conceal the fact they were watching us. One zealously chided our roadie Brandon for using his cell-phone, although there where exhibits that were guided by a cell number. Whatever. It was still a very cool place to visit. Even cooler was Professor Ouch's Bizarre Bazaar and Odditorium, a freaky little shop filled with all kindsa collectables and random ephemera. I could've spent long hours and large amounts of cash in the tiny place but we were short for time. Maybe next visit.
We made a run out to Manayunk for a visit to Cresson Street Tattoos, the shop that belonged to the late 'Fat' Howard Saunders, aka the Cosmic Commander of Wrestling. Clayton had some work done while the rest of us walked over to a record shop. I picked up some cool Austin City Limits DVDs and a used copy of Simon Stokes 'Buzzard of Love' lp (all of which I would later leave behind at Gavins). We drove back through downtown Philly, past the art museum where Rocky famously ran the steps. The statue from ‘Rocky III’ sits at the foot. I was able to pop off a picture but there was no way I'd attempt running - hell, walking even - those steps. My drive-by view was quite enough for me, thank you very much.
I was able to manage a quick nap before we loaded up for the show. We had determined it wiser to unload all our gear into Gavin's place rather than leave it in the van parked on a street in south Philly. Anyway, now we had to reload it in the snow so we made quick work of it and headed out to the club.
The club is called the Trocadero. It is an old theater with two rooms; one the large theater with a balcony which encircles the room, and second smaller room above and to the rear also called 'The Balcony'. This is the room we are scheduled to play. I remember the last time we were at this place - the load-in is murder; a flight of steps going straight up two stories and emptying out into a tight landing on the opposite end of the room from the stage. After the backbreaking load in I decided to check out what could possibly have prevented this show from occurring in the large room. I peek in and see about twenty people scattered about half paying attention to a girl onstage in a silly costume playing a ukulele singing a song about a penis. This is exactly the kind of stupid shit that plays to a packed room here in Charlotte but in Philly the novelty apparently has worn off. I question Eric Perfect why we would be in the smaller room when we clearly would outdraw the act in the big room. "Because", he said, "its gets more rocking to pack this small room out!” I couldn't argue his logic.
Many old friends have turned out for this. I see Art Ettenger, editor of Ultra Violent and contributing writer for Razorcake. Wimpy Rutherford has made it down from New Hampshire. Our old friend Marcus has flown in from Germany. CJ Price arrives with Hellstomper. He has worked for them in the same way I used to work for ANTiSEEN. We've been pen-pals and friends for twenty years. It’s his birthday, I gift him some wrestling DVD's. He suggests we get some beer, but I'm not drinking. I tell him not to over-do it. He grins mischievously.
The opening band is Limecell, infamous Philly stalwarts who've carved an enviable reputation of their own. I'd never seen them before and was deeply impressed - it was somewhat akin to what I had been trying to do in the latter era of the Mad Brother Ward stuff, but with greater focus and way tighter. I suppose in all candor I was bit jealous. They provided a serious gut-check for me personally, knowing I was gonna have to play later on. If that wasn’t enough, Hellstomper came on and played probably the best set I've ever seen them give - they just flat out killed it. Fortunately this wasn’t competition - it was a tag-team effort with all three bands working together to pull off an upset in Hostile City...
We take the stage late but the room is packed front to back. I set up my stuff and deal with the usual complaint from the soundguy about my volume. I ignore him. I roll off the opening chords to 'Burnin' Money' and we launch into the set. The set is a long one, maybe the longest set we've put together since I've joined. We play the entirety of 'Blood Of Freaks'. The crowd presses up close and chant along. It's always fun for me to see the excitement on peoples faces when we play old favorites. I realize I'm probably trying too hard, putting forth more physical energy than needed, but the instinct is driving me to give give give... I collide with Clayton a few times; he's clearly running on the same adrenaline. It surprises me at times how much energy he gives. I can't focus very much on him while playing, and there have been a few ill-timed collisions. It's symptomatic of the effort we put forth. At some point I feel a sharp pain shoot up the back of my leg and into my ass. I pulled a muscle. Great. I know I'm off point on a few spots as the pain shoots into the small of my back but try to keep the energy level up. We grind 'em out one on top of the other. When we finally leave the stage the entire place is exhausted. Initially I felt very self-critical but looking back I feel it was one of our better sets.
We load out and head back over to Gavins place around 4am for a quick clean up and then pile back in the van for the long trip home. It was a wild ride; we had to maneuver through snow, ice and 60mph wind gusts. At one point it slammed our van so hard we thought we were going to blow over the side of a bridge. Clayton instinctively gripped the steering wheel so tightly his arm cramped up. The trip home took a bit longer due to the conditions but finally we rolled back into town ragged, disheveled and road burned but overall in good spirits. It was a pretty great trip.
Next up on our agenda is the upcoming Twentieth Anniversary of Tremont Music Hall. We've been asked to participate and it is our honor to do so. Club founder and original owner Penny Craver opened the club back in 1995 after seeing the Milestone through its glory years in the early 90's. The support she has shown both professionally and personally has been always been valued and appreciated. Current owner John Hayes has continued in the same measure, going above and beyond in assistance and support. Tremont Music Hall has always welcomed the band and hosted ANTiSEEN's infamous anniversary bashes. Now we return to pay tribute and respect to a venue that we are lucky to call our home. The event happens on Saturday, March 21st, so make plans to come join us in celebrating Tremont’s anniversary.
We have a lot of dates booked through the spring and some big plans we're trying to sort out for later in the year, so keep your eyes and ears open. If you haven't already, 'like' us on Facebook and check out www.antiseen.com for news and updates.