Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Southern Comfort...

We've been tearing up and down the highways of the southeast this month in hit and run skirmishes of Destructo Rock. Along the way we always encounter some of the coolest people and places. I know speaking from a personal level that this first year as an active member of the band has been a very good one. If it were to all end tomorrow I'd have a pretty deep well of memories to reflect on. Certainly nobody can ever replace Joe Young and nobody is trying to redifine this band or rewrite its history. I can only hope I've added to it. And you folks out there that come to the shows, buy a t shirt or record or merely just read this blog are all included. We do this together.




ROANOKE VA - Sept 5


I was born in Roanoke and lived there until I was 12. I still have family and friends there, but for reasons personal to me, the place holds little in the way of nostalgia and I seldom ever visit anymore. This wasn't gonna be a homecoming of any sort, however I had a personal agenda to perform well. I played there once before with the old MBW band and it was one of the worst shows I ever gave. I wanted to return and vindicate myself, even if only to myself. Sometimes yourself is the stiffest competition you've got.


I remember coming to Roanoke with the boys over twenty years ago. They played at a place called the Iroquois. After their set we had a tense stand-off with some of the local punk rock scene kings. Words were traded but these guys were simply outmatched and outclassed. The verbal beat down was enough to send them home to rethink their shit. This go 'round the current crop of would-be and wannabe scene kings simply stayed home. More on that in a bit.


We arrived early in the afternoon and made a little side trip up to the crest of Mill Mountain. The city erected an 80ft neon star and overlook at the peak. I suggested as it was not too far out of the way it would be a cool spot to take some pics. Unfortunately the impact was somewhat lost as it was daytime and the star wasn't lit. Still, its a trek I almost always make when I visit. You can see most of the Roanoke Valley from up there. Even though I don't have much connection with Roanoke anymore, it still is my home. When I die I'd like my ashes scattered at the foot of the star, because hey - what better tombstone than an 80ft neon star??


The club is called Backstreet Cafe. Its a cool tiny bar, the kind of place where you have to move the pool table to make room for the band because there is no stage.The room is a basic rectangular shell lined to one side by the bar. It reminds me of the kind of place you might read in a Bukowski or Elroy book. Seedy. It was once (and possibly still is) a gay bar and is run by a cool transgender woman named Deanna. True fact: a man once entered the place and shot seven people, killing one. 


We are told of a local band's effort to derail the show. It's the tired "racist" thing again. I ask who they are and am told their name. I recognize them as the band I once brought to Charlotte. Although they were a stupid and boring cliche of a band I still tried to ensure they got paid enough to cover their expenses. I'm sure they would claim ignorance and it doesn't really matter at this point. That they would blindly make accusations and aspersions of my personal character is pretty telling. They don't know me or my friends, and the fact we are playing a gay bar is an irony clearly lost on their elitist punk rock snobbery. Deanna assures me the truth of the matter - they're jealous they were not asked to open.

Our set is a little ragged and the crowd turnout wasn't so hot but I thought it was a lot of fun. The crowd that were there were seriously into it. Lotsa slam dancing and jumping around. I love shows like this; where the people are up on top of you and its hot, sweaty and hard to breath. The volume and feedback of my Hiwatt sounds killer in this little room. It all makes me play harder.
Overall I feel we tore Roanoke a new asshole. It was a lot of fun and we met some great folks. Hopefully we'll get to come back soon.




SHREVEPORT - September 18


We left out on Thursday night to break up the long ride out to Shreveport. The ride was actually pretty fun; everyone was in a pretty good mood and laughing a lot. We encountered some bad traffic outside of Atlanta due to an accident, but otherwise made it down halfway across Alabama before stopping for the night. The motel was a bit dumpy but we were too tired to care. We made it on over to Shreveport the next afternoon a bit frazzled and road burned but still in good spirits.


The club is called the Back 2 Back Bar. The name is, presumably, because there are two separate rooms serviced by a bar split between them. Back to back, get it? Its actually the bar for a hotel that has been taken over by a cool biker dude whose name I cant recall. He is very welcoming and we quickly load in our gear. The stage is small with a PA that is probably more powerful than the room requires. The room itself is dotted with tables and chairs, a remnant of an era when this was a more formal hotel lounge. Disco lights illuminate the floor in a dizzying array of colorful patterns.


The promoter soon arrives, a guy named Matt. He quickly orders our food and gives us keys to two hotel rooms he is providing for the night. We are somewhat surprised when he tells us the rooms are at a different hotel. After eating he volunteers a runner to take us over to the hotel we are staying, so Clayton and I go on over to check it out. It is easily the nicest place we've stayed since I've joined. Clayton and I kinda grin at each other on the elevator. He says this is more like the treatment the band receives in Europe. This promoter has his shit down, and we are really grateful.

When we return to the club I kill some time outside talking with a guy named Joey Corman. It's his birthday and he's driven over from Texas with his girlfriend to catch the show. He used to wrestle on the indy circuit, so we nerd out on wrestling talk. I talk a bit with another guy whose name I don't catch. We talk gearhead stuff. The people showing up are all really cool. One of the opening bands is 'Jethro Skull' featuring our friend Scott Lenard. The night is shaping up to be a lot of fun.


When we hit stage everyone crowds around in front. Its a small turnout, but a rowdy one. We blitz thru our set and I quickly find my zone. I was somewhat nervous due to out lack of practice but everything is on point. I lean into the songs content to blast away with abandon. The crowd push, shove and slam, often falling at our feet. To me, this is what I always sort of envisioned as kid reading about the "rock & roll underground"; a tribe of disparate and disillusioned outsiders, hidden away in some forgotten dark bar eager to blow off steam and expel some of whatever heinous bullshit they contend with in everyday life.
   
The set was great and Matt the promoter readily invites us back. I look forward to it.






NEW ORLEANS - September 19


Before leaving Shreveport I suggest we ride over to the old Shreveport Memorial Auditorium. This is where the old Louisiana Hayride radio show originated. It was on that show in this building that Elvis became a star. The show was the chief competitor to the larger and more established Grand Ole Opry out of Nashville. The Hayride program was decidedly more rowdy and raucous, and served as the roots of what would become rock & roll.

After taking some pictures we have to locate a pharmacy. Kerrie somehow managed to turn her ankle and sprain it the night before. We luck out and find a Goodwill and score her some crutches. She's bummed and we try to cheer her up. These road trips - especially one as long as this one - are already uncomfortable enough. To have to endure chronic pain makes it harder. She's a tough little lady and hardly complains. Pretty soon we are rolling on down the highway to New Orleans.

We arrive in town around seven. We always seem to get turned around when trying to find this club. We've been here twice before so the locale is becoming somewhat familiar. We quickly find it and have the usual trouble with parking. The club staff however are very helpful and we soon have a good spot by the front door. New Orleans is kind of a scuzzy place. Its a weird mix of poor and middle class mingling together in an uneasy mix of mutual apathy. Bums pester for money and smokes, with people indulging them as often as ignoring them. You can drink on the street here, and apparently police turn a blind eye to folks openly smoking pot. Oddly, the atmosphere is less dangerous than relaxed. Not everything is as you see it on TV.


The club is called Siberia. Its a relatively small venue that doubles as a restaurant. I've come to look forward to this place because it serves awesome food. We are met by Walt and Heather Wheat, close friends from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Walt plays guitar for 'Before I Hang'. Tonights show is serving as the 40th birthday party for their drummer, John Littlejohn. John soon arrives and so does Josh Mayfield from Hellstomper. Josh plays guitar in one of the opening bands, 'Mudsex'. Everyone catches up after load in.


The place soon is crowded. ANTiSEEN have always enjoyed a good following here. Most of the people are your garden variety crusty punk types; tatooed and pierced ruffians in tattered denim vests adorned with assorted spikes and studs and the patchwork of various band logos. They mingle and mill about in front of the club clutching their beer and smoking. Some kids sit across the street content to listen to the music from a distance.


The shows here start late; the first band doesn't go on until nearly 11;00. I miss the opening bands but Barry, Gooch and our roadie Brandon all rave about the first band. Truthfully I'm uncomfortable in crowds and prefer the solitude of the van. I know it might come off somewhat antisocial or worse, snobby, but although somewhat difficult to explain it actually helps me prepare for our set. Even after a year of doing this I still find myself nervous. I carry a lot of expectation on my shoulders - mostly my own expectation. I want every set to be exceptional and memorable. As I will discover this evening, it isn't always an easy goal.


We finally take the stage. Most people are still lingering out front. It takes the first two songs for the room to fill up. I don't mind, I'm trying to find my zone. I can't seem to catch my rhythm and unlike Shreveport, everything I do feels awkward and stilted. I try to play though it, briefly finding point on occasion but mostly its an uphill battle. I collide with Clayton at one point, jamming his elbow with the neck of my guitar. Sweat stings my eyes and I can taste the salt on my lips. Usually this is a good thing but tonight its only derailing me.


About halfway thru the set we play 'Masters Of The Sky'. It's one of my favorite songs to play. Usually if I'm not on point I can find my feet on this song, however tonight it doesn't happen. Then as we follow though with 'OD For Me' I break a string. At first I think its my 'G" string, something which I can get around. Unfortunately its my 'A' string and I'm forced to stop. The song shudders to a halt. I've played guitar off and on in bands since I was 19 and never once have I broken a string onstage during a show. It doesn't throw me. I handle it pretty well, playing it off by pretending to pay Clayton a "fine". While changing guitars Clayton takes the opportunity to bring John onstage and wish him happy birthday, gifting him with a full set of ANTiSEEN Voodoo Dolls. The crowd joins in singing 'Happy Birthday'.


The set resumes and I still never fully find my feet. I repeatedly drop my pick, something else I rarely do. I play the final two songs without a pick. I try to salvage all I can and we finally power though to the finish. I'm lucky to have the solid rhythm section of Barry and Gooch to carry me. They help make this set a success. I feel pretty lousy afterwards but Barry thinks it was strong. I ask Brandon and he agrees it was a really fun set. People shake my hand and everyone seems really happy with the show.  


This was another valuable lesson I've learned. Sometimes when you're in the moment things aren't necessarily clear. Your thoughts can become clouded with irrational thought. I shouldn't expect too much from myself, true, but then I should never let that be an excuse to perform badly.However this night in New Orleans I realize I didn't perform badly, I did exactly what I needed to do. I never lost focus, never held back and never quit.


I was in fact, precisely where I needed to be.  



     

We head out again this weekend for a round of shows that will see us in Chapel Hill, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Philly show should prove interesting considering half the town is going to be shut down due to the visit of the Pope. We are used to such obstacles however. We will make every effort to make it into Philly and do what we do. Hopefully those of you in the Philly/ Jersey area will brave the traffic. We look forward to seeing you. Same goes for our friends in the DC/Baltimore/ Delaware region and of course all our old pals in the Raleigh/ Durham area. We want to see all of you.


We are also still working hard on new material. I know its a bit of a tease, but give us some time and hopefully we'll start seeing some new releases in the new year. Meanwhile keep your eyes open for more stories from the road and beyond and thanks for reading this.


If anyone wants to correspond hit me up at madbroward@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Holiest of Rollers Never Step Foot Inside a Church...

Our pals in Lookout Mountain Daredevils posted a review they received in the pages of the venerable old punk magazine 'Maximum Rock & Roll'. I wasn't gonna really interject myself into this, but goddammit shit just gets too stupid not to pass comment. They received a negative review, which would be perfectly fine if it weren't for the fact that the reviewer gave up his shit by basically admitting he had little appreciation for rock & roll. So he gave essentially a non-review; a not so clever dismissal of "sped-up Chuck Berry riffs" (which sounds like something good to me) and lyrical content (which is to say it isn't the oh so vital political dissertation that gives those MRR folk hard-ons).


The real problem with MRR  (or really any other nameless "zine") is the complete lack of cognitive reason and thought to objectively review a record (or anything else for that matter). This due to the obvious and increasingly troublesome realization that most people don't possess the depth of knowledge or understanding - never mind taste - to demonstrate any objectivity because they simply cannot distinguish quality from crap. Criticism has become bad manners, as if the idea of forming a negative opinion is somehow counter revolutionary in the erstwhile progressive mindest of the new era. I mean Jezus H Christmas, is this 1969 or 2015??


Lets get with the program already because there aint a whole hell of a lot of rock and roll bands left these days. The Dictators rattled the dry dead bones years ago with a song called "Who Will Save Rock and Roll?" and presciently included the line 'our generation / is not the salvation' - because they knew the kids weren't gonna buy it no how, nevermind FM radio. Seriously - where do we go from here? We already hit the wall charging at full speed at least twenty years ago - and sure one could argue it was a glorious, gore-ious crash, but when the dust settled and cleared all that was left other than the trusted old guard (god bless 'em) was cheap imitators; costumed affectation drilling out the same old, same old, same old - only without any heart or conviction because its all a disposable and trivial interest at best anyhow. The only reason any of it appears in any way credible is because what stands next to it is so utterly worthless as to make the obvious seem exceptional.


Sorry, but hatred is a valid human emotion. Oh, I don't mean unwarranted and blind baseless hatred masking ones own low self esteem, insecurities, phobias and fears; I mean pointed, directed hate. The hate that defines ones own integrity. The hate that establishes the bullshit one will not tolerate. The kind of hate most people are far too chickenshit to ever allow be shown because they don't wanna get kicked out of the goddamned party. There is a carefully constructed and cultivated culture of cool; and god knows its far more important to be cool than it is to be good.


I just recently moved again. For the last four years I had been living in a tiny little house nestled snugly off a side road somewhat hidden away from the frenzied hustle of the city and it has been a good little spot for me. It was far enough away from the annoying obviousness of so-called 'alternative' plasticized culture that has developed like a bad rash over certain quarters of the city, yet close enough to stealthily sleaze thru when warranted.


Now I have returned to the heart of it all. Once a seedy strand of low-income refuse, this neighborhood has seen its rebirth as the haven of the artsy-fartsy and neo-hippy idealists. Naturally this attracted the hawkish eye of real-estate barons constructing a maze of pricey apartment buildings and 'upscale' restaurants inhabited by young, upwardly mobile Caucasians in polo shirts and colorful sundresses. One has to appreciate the irony of seeing these children of privilege stomp about spouting off standardized rhetorical game-plays of "diversity" and "tolerance" while surreptitiously whitewashing and cannibalizing the whole goddamned neighborhood. They practically choke on their tongues while preaching equality and brotherhood, intoning the virtuous piety of the oh-so-saintly liberal city council and their noble efforts to preserve, protect and defend the local landmarks and culture...  only to act shocked and surprised when same-said council members sell out the zoning to evil corporate commercial interests.


The neighborhood has homogenized into a hellish sanctuary of the media directed drones and sheep in wolves clothing;  hipsters, hippies, yuppies and... me...


This isnt to say I'm sitting off to the corner as some sort of bullshit modern day Holden Caulfield. I am a creature of habit too, I suppose. Although I do not engage in the trivial bar hopping and social grandstanding that pulsates the heart of the neighborhood, I usually can be found at "my" bar, the Thirsty Beaver Saloon. It's a place where I can communicate non-verbally with the bartender who supplies me with my beer on sight. A television blinks away in the corner with reruns of Hee-Haw on continuous loop. The jukebox is free and loaded with old-school country, choice rock & roll and old r&b. It's a cool little spot, but isn't without faults of its own - it's popularity rose quickly as the proverbial "dive bar" that for whatever reason attracts the bridge and tunnel crowd, eager to slum it up in a "real" honky-tonk.


Loud annoying girls appearing as though they have just stepped off the reject line at a casting call for some inane Lifetime television drama  - or perhaps Jersey Shore - teeter and stumble about in high heels like wounded foals. Drunk on Fireball Whiskey they furiously try to feed the jukebox money unaware it is set for continuous free play, only to then stare in confusion at the lack of recognizable names on the playlists. They are surrounded by large boy-men clad in tight black tee-shirts reading 'TAPOUT' and 'AFFLICTION' who are only too eager to fight. Then there are the Real Housewives of Wherethefuckerever, corralled and clustered out the front door, chain smoking like its their job while their polo and cargo attired husbands swarm about the bar burying the bartender in endless requests for imported beer only to grudgingly settle for PBR.


Fortunately there are the regulars, no more or less sober or sane, but at least you can relate. We don't laugh with the tourists as much as laugh at them. Somehow amidst the mindless morass we manage to have a time of our own, safely ensconced in our own little corner of dysfunction and discontent. Here we find some solace and understanding... or at least tolerance if not acceptance. Sure, we might bristle and hiss among ourselves from time to time; alcohol isn't always conducive to good behavior or bright ideas. But we do alright.


It is here at the Thirsty Beaver that ANTiSEEN will preform in October. The boys that own the bar are longtime 'SEEN fans, even including ANTiSEEN albums on the jukebox - the only local joint that I'm aware to do so. The band has played here a few times before. It's a tiny spot with no stage. You simply set up in a cramped corner and get down on it. The regulars are all eager for the band to return. The tourists wont have a clue.


Oh yeah... It's gonna be a goooood time...