We returned to Chapel Hill this past weekend. It recently occurred to me that even as a pre-teen growing up in Virginia, Chapel Hill seemed to hold some sort of weird mysterious allure. Trickling down from older siblings and other avenues of teenaged gossip (page one news, this), Chapel Hill was spoken of in reverent tones as a place where youth culture actually held command over the rule of adults, where the status quo caved under the ideas and attitudes of the bohemian and served as barometer of all things that were going to be big tomorrow.
All idealized fantasy of course, but when your 11 you sorta don't know any better.
All I knew was what I had been told, and my imagination filled in the blanks. By the time I was 13 I was becoming more aware of the culture that permeated from the town. Having relocated to a suburban hellscape outside the port city of Norfolk, I was exposed to the cool new bands via a local DJ named Carol 'Hell Yeah' Taylor (who has sadly since passed). She would eagerly talk up her regular visits to Chapel Hill, often returning with new recordings of groups like the dB's, Let's Active and others. It was collegiate cool, but it colored my otherwise nascent punk rock sensibilities.
Frankly the hype was unfounded. Once I finally visited the town, I was left wholly unimpressed. Infused every year with a new crop of wide-eyed and idealized youth carting along the dregs of their hometown hype, Chapel Hill is in a state of eternal flux. Contrasting the free-spirited creative with the career-minded academic, it is a forever churning piss-pot of bad ideas funded by Mommy and Daddy's money - the grist composed of more dollars than sense. True, most all of these college towns are exactly alike in their generalized non-conformist way; insulated yet not immune to the horrors of the Real World lying in wait just beyond the horizon...
Enter ANTiSEEN; mongrel horde from the outlands, brandishing weapons of electrified torment! Here to ruin your groove...
The club is called the Local 506. We played here a year or so ago and I've looked forward to returning. If Chapel Hill is in itself unimpressive, at least the club is cool. It's ran efficiently, is basically clean, has a cool staff and a good PA. The backstage greenroom is actually upstairs. It is pretty nice with a large lounge area with clean bathrooms, including a shower. I like the Local 506 a lot.
We load in quickly and relocate to the neighboring pizza joint. We are instantly thrust amid a roomful of Chapel Hill's shadow side; the Future Yuppies of America. These are the frat boys and sorority girls enveloped in their own world of GPA, IPA and NCAA. They don't even acknowledge or so much as look at us, but I can't help but study them intently.I lasciviously consider their sexual habits and mating rituals. The boys seem eager if wholly inept. The girls smile frustrated smiles. I prejudicially contemplate their entire lives; nobody's on the short road to nowhere.
After masticating like a pack of rabid dogs, we return to the club and hunker down in the greenroom. I can hear the opening band soundchecking downstairs. They seem intent to practice their entire set. I'm convinced that some of the bands that open for us never practice until the soundcheck. I crack open a beer and sink into a sofa. Jeff's brother Greg is here along with Michael Pillmer, who does our web site. Todd Goss shows up, too. These are all longtime friends and its great to see them. We debate wrestling (the validity of the claw hold) and politics (the validity of the president). Unlike so many online debates I've seen, ours always end in fits of laughter. We can laugh at each other and we can laugh at ourselves.
Before I know it, it's time to play. We casually ready our equipment. I don't feel rushed but somehow feel a little nervous. Greg Clayton gives us a grand introduction and we launch into 'NC Royalty'. It feels a little off. I think I got so anxious that I'm cruising at my own speed. I got to make up
the set list for this show and purposely put in a few songs I
personally have trouble playing. I wanted to practice them more but we
have been so busy with recording new material as well as the holidays
that our practice sessions were limited. The guys assure me that I play
everything fine and truthfully I don't think anyone else notices. It's
just my own personal drive to perform better. I never want to get
lackadaisical or complacent.
I fall back in line rooted by Gooch's drumming and soon am in the zone. We fire off a set full of old classics fortified with some of the new songs. It's encouraging to see that people seem to really get off on the new stuff. The crowd is somewhat smaller than the last time we played here but seem way more into it. I can't see more than backlit shadows, but everyone seems to be moving. The response we receive is great. We hit our climax and return for an encore of 'Cactus Jack' and 'Destructo Rock'.
If Chapel Hill was ever the epicenter of... uh, anything, it was certainly this night. And Ground Zero was the Local 506. And what was causin' all this...??? Anyone that knows me can attest that I'm not given to moments of self-aggrandizement but I truly feel this line-up can hold their own against any band treading the boards anywhere in the world, especially in Chapel Hill...
We've been progressing on new material. Recently Barry demoed out some tracks he built from some of my riff ideas and it looks like the right direction to go. The plan for the next six weeks is to start getting more tracks recorded for what I personally hope to be a full length LP. We'll see. Either way, I feel really lucky to be a part of this and I anticipate producing some really great stuff in the future. Meanwhile we've got a few things recently recorded that are very close to seeing release, including our split with Malcolm Tent. Plus the 'Southern Hostility' Demos, which is something I'm super excited about! It's all coming soon, folks. And Tennessee, we're headed your way in January, so get ready! As always, info can be obtained on our facebook page and www.antiseen.com - so get on it!!
In closing I wanna take a moment and extend 'happy birthday' wishes out to my old friend Jeff Williams, aka Biggy Stardust. Jeff is the host and creative force behind the 'Possum Pit Podcast', our semi-weekly discussion panel that you can find on iTunes or YouTube. Inspired by the 'Broadstreet Breakdown' podcast, we contemplate the finer points of World Culture - pro wrestling, rock & roll, TV sitcoms and b-movies. If you haven't checked it out already, I eagerly invite you to do so. And leave a comment and/or rating while your at it.
Anyways, I first met Jeff Williams sometime around early 2001. With an easy going attitude masking a sharp, dark wit that outmatches and outpaces my own, his friendship has proven to be one of my best. For several years we gleefully aggravated and annoyed anyone we felt suffered from an over-inflated sense of self-worth. Which pretty much meant anyone that wasn't us. Like some sort of distorted punk rock version of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet show, nothing was off limits for our barbed commentary (read: contempt and insults). With loudmouthed alcohol-fueled stupidity that steadily advanced (already) negative opinions toward us, we soldiered onward reveling in the loathing.
Taking it too far was par for the course, and ultimately sent us sideways with each other. I'll take the blame for that misstep. With the aid of some maturity (and sobriety) we've mended the fence. The mileage has included some of the proverbial change of venue moments that life inevitably provides. We are very different than we were a decade ago, however we also still very much the same. Which is to say we time our punches a little better. Anyhow, not to be overly sentimental or nothing, but I love the guy like a brother. Happy birthday pal, all the best to you!