Rock Gods #111: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Q is back! The mysterious Bullfinch bouncer, barback and band-booker has been spotted several nights in a row back at his old haunt. Ask him where he’s been, and he’ll only say “Carrying the sky.” The word is that he did travel, but that he also went underground for a while. Even while absent from the Bullfinch premises, Q was maintained a presence, booking dozens of shows at the Finch and calling in regularly to check on operations. Considering that he doesn’t own or manage the joint, his diligence is impressive.

Knowing that this guy of impeccable taste and practical get-the-job-done values has been nurturing some songs of his own makes us hopeful that his time away included some writing and recording.

But we’re just making shit up at this point. Welcome home Q!

Upcoming at the Bullfinch: Tense days, Some Optimists, Shadowy Road. Sounds like a biblical parable in the making, and in a sense it is—more of those reborn bands from the famous Shaking Quaker farmstead. The booking has inspired some foul scrawling on the club’s bathroom walls, urging the “cult” to stay home. Honestly, the Bullfinch has withstood harsher proclamations than this. Let’s be civil…

Speaking of graffiti, and of rank-smelling area, how about that glorious block-long tag under the tunnel by the train station? Does it refer to the well-known Deity or to the local band of the same name? We’re told it’s the latter, but will deny it if anyone comes calling with a bucket of whitewash and a brush…

Schickel Lit

Conversations With Scorsese
By Richard Schickel (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011; 423 pages)

Well, you can’t catch him out for false advertising—these are indeed conversations between the mainstreamy movie critic and documentarian Richard Schickel and the eminent filmmaker Martin Scorsese—or, as Schickel knows him, Marty.
There’s a casual air to the dozens of themed interviews here that brings a lightness to the often overwrought analysis that’s found in most Scorsese interviews and biographies.
At the same time, there’s such a thing as too loose. Only eight and a half pages on New York, New York, when what does get discussed hints at myriad other fascinating topics regarding what appears to be a major transitional period in Scorsese’s professional career? Only three pages on After Hours, that underrated black comedy with the amazing cast and an interesting back story (it began as a project in one of the film courses Scorsese taught) that is completely ignored here?

There’s a detailed filmography at the end of the book, but such careful scholarship is avoided in the main text. Here’s one of the many exchanges that’s just screaming to be footnoted, part of a rambling story about the financing of The Last Temptation of Christ:

Scorsese: Garth Drabinsky was a very unique character. Do you know him?
Schickel: I never met him, but I heard a lot about him. Didn’t he go to jail?
Scorsese: I think he might have. I don’t know.

Readers should’ve have to resort to Google to find out that Drabinsky was, in fact, convicted for fraud and forgery in Canada in 2009, though the case is on appeal and he has not yet served time. Schickel should have annotated or filled in the gaps in some of the most open-ended anecdotes. Or he should have taken a more professional and research-intensive approach to the interviews, as Mel Gussow did in his extraordinary series of sit-downs with influential playwrights: Conversations With and About Beckett, Conversations With Stoppard, Conversations with Pinter and Conversations With Miller.
Gussow raised the standard for the word “conversation.” Schickel lowers it again. As interesting as it can be to hear Scorsese reminiscing, Schickel’s constant “Oh, I know him too” and “I didn’t like that one so much” interruptions can be pretty irritating, and after a while the reader feels left out of the conversation altogether.

Rock Gods #110: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

By Artie Capshaw

The Blats plays Hamilton’s last night and did that song again, the one we wrote about with all the “I”s in it. We were there to take scholarly notes. We thought singer Sonny Blitt might have tapped a new existential philosophy.

It came mid-set. We took pen and hidden mic in hand, ready to record any variations on this “I”-opening number.

Then Sonny started singing. “We! We We! We We We! We We We We”

Which, if you parse it, becomes a single-syllable shout of joy, followed by duo-syllabic babytalk for the act of pissing, followed by a phrase commonly attributed to a little pig. Four times is an excitable Frenchman. And so on.

We were appalled, then amused, then appalled again. We suspect Sonny did this to chide us for what we wrote about the song before. We actually did try to talk to him about it this time, but got the brush-off. The whole band split together right after the set, so we remain intrigued and perplexed. We think Sonny’s on to something, but we don’t think he knows what it is.

Nothing at the Bullfinch tonight. Waaaah!… At Hamilton’s Pep Talks, Fan Art and Next Issue (more like reprinted issue—it’s a cover band)… At D’ollaire’s, mercenary “supergroup” On Sale Everywhere with opening thrash duo Would-Be Overlord…

Ring in More Singles

[Christopher Arnott continues to espouse the glories of the many 45s he’s kept in the basement all these years.]

The Botswanas, Little Witch b/w Primitive High. Hardwired Archie comics fanatic  that I am, I once accidently mistyped the Botswanas song title “Little Witch” as “Teenage Witch” (as in “Sabrina the…”). Whereupon another New Haven rock band, The Gravel Pit, wrote a song called “Teenage Witch.” My little contribution to local band culture. “Little Witch”—there, I got it right, is a real barnburner of a garage anthem, wrought by the guitarist Price Harrison and featuring vocalist Eileen Ziontz at the height of her miraculous melding with the spirits of Nancy Sinatra and Wendy O. Williams. White vinyl for all the white magic.

The Trashmen, Lucille b/w Green Onions. One of several packagings of previously unreleased tracks by the distillers of “Surfin’ Bird.” Both are dance-at-the-gym standards from The Trashmen’s mid-‘60s heydays, sped up a bit and graced by the band’s patented sandpaper vocals, but otherwise respectful.

Shiv, Lust b/w EMK and Stratego. Three-song EP put out by John Nutcher’s Caffeine Disk label, which really believed in this band. It’s one of those slowburn, thumpy, bass-heavy sounds which eventually morphed into emo but was still considered punk back in 1993, when this came out. Singer/ guitarist Keith Cotlier has recently resurfaced in the somewhat spritelier Forge Records band The Clearer.

Malachi Krunch/Maggot split EP. Each side has its own collective EP-style title. Malachi Krunch’s is called “This Will Be on Your Permanent Record” and contains two tracks, “What Can I Do for You Now?” and “Flinch.” The Maggot NYC side is dubbed “From the Cradle to the Grave” and has three short songs: “Your God,” Death Trip” and “Casualties of War”—which I don’t believe I’ve ever heard. That’s because it’s impossible to get past the fun-loving hardcore-badass MK anthem “What Can I Do for You Now?” Malachi Krunch reunited last year, nearly 20 years after breaking up, to honor the late Wally Gates (who briefly played in one of the last editions of the band) at a memorial show at Café Nine last summer.

The Furors, Electric Guitar and Drums. One of the most brilliant (literally, like colorful) packaging concepts in the history of the Connecticut music scene: Eleven songs spread across two singles. Each side of each single is a bright color—red, blue, green, yellow—unsullied by any text. The music is, in classic Furors fashion, basic and brilliant. For the past 30 years, Derek Holcomb and Tom Dans haven’t wavered from the model set down in the title of this album (unless you count the Huntingtons, but even that isn’t too far afield). It’s astonishing how clearly they’d figured their sound out from the very beginning, and how superbly it still works.

Until I looked at the liner notes just now, I didn’t realize how far back the connection between Rob DeRosa and this mighty duo went. Rob apparently took the cover photo for this “juke box album.”Decades later, DeRosea would release a two-CD Furors tribute album on his Thin Man Music label.

The Furors, Furors for the Live EP. A four-song 45 from 1979 that predates the more elaborate Electric Guitar and Drums (which was an album’s worth of music splayed across two 45s). “Letters” remains one of my fave Furors tracks—it’s simultaneously Buddy Hollyesque, Beatlesque, New Wavesque and completely furious. The other tunes—“I Couldn’t Pretend,” “Her Other Man,” “A Look for the Honey”—are not shabby, but “Letters” is immortal.

The Furors play this Saturday, along with dozens of other Connecticut bands, at the Daffodil Festival in Meriden’s Hubbard Park.


Rock Gods #109: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Skinny Floot, of the Hampton Floots, proposed to his girlfriend Helter Zelda onstage at a Hamilton’s punkfest last week. She declined the offer and spat in his face. Since spitting in Skinny’s face is something all his fans have done at one time or another, and since the band is known for outrageous put-ons (remember Zelda as the Virgin Mary, giving birth to Santa Claus in a basement show a few months back?), there were unanswered questions long after the set was finished.

Of course we hit up both S and Z for details, and of course neither of them are to be trusted. So we took this off the bandstage into the real world found out their real names, knocked on a few doors, and even visited the county courthouse.

Shocking upshot: the engagement was fake… Because they’re already married! Tied the knot, and probably whipped each other with it, three years ago… before they started the band. The Hamilton’s antics took place on their anniversary.

Now don’t we feel like we should move over to the investigative reporter desk at this rag?

There’s some semblance of punk-pop bill at Hamilton’s Thursday, with Nuts for Fair, The Pickestaffs, La Za Za, Patsy Pancake, Kiddy Katty Korner, The Gazzwatts and Kelly’s Kumquat Farm… The Bullfinch is alarming quiet again, not just tonight but tomorrow. Next up, night after next: Overflow Meeting of Memories, Watching the Old Order Crack and The Slouch Hats. D’ollaire’s is doing the nostalgia thing with three bands who had minor hits several years ago, touring on the way down: That’s My Pop, Phool Phan Phables and Banana Oil. Oh, how the world has changed since then…

R.I.P. to the P.S. 2

To the coffeehouse crowd of the early ‘70s, Phoebe Snow was cool. To the punk throngs of just a few years later, she was a blizzard of yuck, the kind of artist whom new singers such as the same-initialed Poly Styrene were put on earth to destroy.

Both singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene died this week.  I never saw X-Ray Spex live, but their singles were in every self-respecting punk’s record collection, and I know from some of my young-adult friends that those old records still awe and inspire, especially the empowerment anthem “O Bondage Up Yours.” The British obituaries depict Ms. Styrene as amiable and down-to-earth.

Phoebe Snow, as I noted, was the enemy to my chosen pop culture, but in the ‘90s I found that I’d been wrong about her. I went to a charity concert at Irving Plaza in New York to see one of my all-time favorite bands, Cheap Trick, perform with one of their own idols, Roy Wood (of The Move and Wizzard fame). Al Franken was hosting, Annie Haslam of Renaissance had put the show together (to benefit Bosnian orphans), and the roster the gamut from artists I respected (Tony Visconti, drummer Steve Holley, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker) to those I actively disliked, like Justin Hayward of Moody Blues… and Phoebe Snow.

I grinded my teeth through Snow’s set, thinking about the orphans. But then Al Franken came out and reminded Snow of a bit they’d worked on together in the early days of Saturday Night Live. And Phoebe Snow performed the theme song for the fake high-fiber cereal Colon Blow.

“Colon Blow and you-oo-oo-oo in the morning…”

Not a far cry from the Poly Styrene catalog, which advertises “Germ Free Adolescents.” If there’s a soft-pop-‘n’-punk heaven, they may have a hell of a duo.

Rock Gods #108: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

By Artie Capshaw

Note to the short leashes: don’t change a note.
The SLs debuted a slamming new song Thursday at the Bullfinch. Were in a good mood these days—Spring fever, you could say—and like a lot of the new songs we’re hearing. But we’re not a pushover. Wouldn’t steer you wrong. (Hence the leash.) If you show up for the Short Leash show next Tuesday (two gigs in three weeks! A new local band downtown record!) it’ll be worth your while. We’d offer to buy a round of drinks, but someone equally excited, but more flush, than us has beaten us to it. Come on time for the Short Leashes’ 9:30 set and your first beer is on the house (or, rather, yours for a penny: “a coin must be passed,” as ye olde state drinking code stipulates).
The song? “Stinker Sue,” a real hogswallop (if that’s a good thing) of a rave up, an anecdote wrapped up in a blues riff wrapped up in the absolute opposite of an enigma–a party singalong chorus. The party numbers were lacking last week, which is why we’re helping grease palms with ale. Honestly, we should be in the band promotion racket. Instead, we prefer to just listen to ’em.