Rock Gods: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene #291:

The Toonine Eyes swarmed like wasps on the D’ollaire’s stage. They hadn’t been booked en masse, but there they were. Bandleader Stefan Staph had been told he could open the local stop on the Red Flesh tour, but only as a solo act since the stage would already be set with several bands’ worth of drum kit, not to mention house-sized speakers and a dragon’s head.

But Stefan Staph is a Socialist, and devil-may-care, and some would say willfully self-destructive. So his “solo” show involved a cadre of sidemen ten times the size of the band he usually plays with.

The boys (and two girls) ran wildly about the stage, banging on anything handy while Stefan and his oldest friends Flash and Bambo strummed mad power chords on acoustic guitars. Some of the songs were vaguely recognizable as 2-9-I tunes, but really it was just a relentless thunder of thumps.

Ten minutes in, the crowd was cheering. Fifteen minutes in, the headliners’ roadies had expressed worry about the gear. Sixteen minutes in, lights were dimmed and mics turned off. There was an insistence on retuning and rebalancing everything. It was an hour and a half before the next band played.

There were the usual rounds of “You’ll never play here again” and “I’ll sue,” but the Tooniner’s popular annual Metal High School Holiday Festival continues to be listed on the schedule, though it’s still two months away.

Was it worth the trouble to bring one’s pals onstage with you rather than simply moshing a couple feet away in the pit? “I know where I stand,” quoth Stef quizzically.


Tonight: Basement Show with nonagenarian troubadour Johnny Seed and five other singer-songwriters in the “Music Room” of the Senior Center. Don’t you all be jumping onstage at once now… A cooking demo at the Bullfinch? No, just popcorn-hurling malcontent Randolph Q. Mertz… At Hamilton’s: The Tribulanterns, playing “hits from the ‘40s,” with the son of a guy who in a big band once on sax… D’ollaire’s? Who cares?…



The conkers have come! Uneven as the weather has been, the chestnut trees have known it’s time to drop the chestnuts.

For old British schoolboys–like my father, who taught the sport to me– that means conker season has begun.

We found handfuls of conkers on New Haven Green after church and brought them home. There, we poked holes through them and strung embroidery thread (because we couldn’t find string) through them. Then we went out in the backyard and whacked them against each other and turned out to be pretty good at it.

We scored a few “around the world”s and remembered to say “No stamps!”

That night, one of the dogs got at the conkers declared the match a draw.

Keep dogs away from conkers. Horse chestnuts are poisonous, for starters (for dogs and humans). Whack safely.

Rock Gods: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene #290

The Conkurs fell out of a tree on us. This was one of the bands playing the Harvest Festival/10K Race/Bicycle Freak Day/Picnic in the Park/Scare the Homeless multi-event confusion on the town common last weekend. Moved without warning from their scheduled spot, the band tried to pull a Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo and play from the treetops. Didn’t work. They spent most of their time climbing and adjusting their instuments. They then fell down and broke our crown. So we made a point of seeing them the next night, out of town at the Battery Bar & Drill. There, the Conkurs were right-side-up and gloriously wrong, breaking all the rules of psychedelic garage math. Our new favorite band. We praise them to the skies so they truly understand that we really aren’t planning to sue them. (No matter what Sonny Blitt told them.) Best song: “Spazz Them.” Best dance move: “The Inverted Frog.” Best patter: “We’re out of our tree!”

Tonight: The Wicksons, with faux French-pop poseurs Pomme Grise and solo Ribston Pippin (of the Ribstones)… At Hamilton’s: Main & High (guess the ban on bands with drug references in their names is over; we’re kidding, it’s bunch of roots-rockers in their 60s) plus added nostalgia act Pliny Burrows  and the Honeycrisps… At D’ollaire’s: a metal night of Red Flesh and The Aerlies…


Assume the Position

“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”

I’ve always hated that expression. Nothing wrong with assuming. An assumption can be an informed deduction or conjecture that involves deep reasoning. Not all assumptions make asses of people.

This also says nothing of the other definition of “assume”: to take on a new job or responsibility. “He assumed power.” Who does that make an ass of?

When you assign something, does it make an ass out of a sign?

When you drink Assam tea, does it make an ass out of Sam?

When you get asthma, does it make an ass out of Ma?

When you assure, does it make an ass out of a brand of deodorant?

When you assemble, does it make an ass out of historic evangelist Aimee Semple Jr.?

When you assault, does it make an ass out of a peanut?

When the superheroic god Thor goes to his mythical home Asgard, does his entrance at the hallowed gates make asses out of the guards?

When you take ascorbic acid, does it make an ass out of Corbin Bernsen?

When you’re at Aspen, are you mocking writing implements?

When you look askance, are you disagreeing with the 18th century philosopher Emmanuel Kant?

When you’re asleep, do you have a problem with Leap Year?

When you study astrology, are you expressing a dislike of streetcars?

And if you’re astonished, is your silverware dirty?


Or so I assume. Join me. Us asses have to stick together.

Rock Gods #289: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

There was a death in the Bullfinch family. mysterious co-owner Marty had a brother, Mark, whom everybody really liked and who had something to do with starting the club decades ago before it even had bands. Mark died, and the Bullfinch closed for a week in his honor– and because the funeral was out of state and the entire staff (even Q) wanted to be there. A sign explaining all had been posted top the front door, but seems to have been swiped before anybody got a chance to see it.

The Bullfinch reopened Thursday with a special bill of bands who knew Mark. There were speeches to, especially after everyone had drunk too much. (We might have given a speech ourself. Seriously can’t remember.)

We are all in the thrall of Bullfinch Mark. Bands that had been scheduled to play the club when it was closed over the last week, or on Thursday when they were bumped by the memorial, will all be rebooked, some as special third acts on previously two band bills.

At the Bullfinch tonight!:

Stinque Stanque Stunque  (formerly Stink Stank Stunk) and Bastard Breath. It’s the alliteration-athon!.. At Hamilton’s: Hem Skemminge and the Polka Puppies (a college on the hill German Club event)… At D’ollaire’s: an evening owt with Owl Pellets…

No News is New Haven News, to the Yale Daily News

I am endlessly fascinated by how the undergraduate student journalists at the Yale Daily News cover their university’s host city. It is as if, rather than full-time residents, they are tourists in town for a few days or hours and don’t have time to get a full grasp of their surroundings.

Granted, these are novice writers acclimating to the difficult craft of mainstream journalism, at a student paper with tight deadlines, at a school without a full-fledged Journalism program. But there’s a matter of perception here which is distinct from any journalistic abilities.

Only in the Yale press could the rock club Toad’s Place (which doesn’t serve food) and the steakhouse/bar Box 68 (which doesn’t book live music) be regularly debated as if these were equivalent choices for late-night fraternizing. (The only similarity appears to be access to liquor.)

In recent days, the Yale Daily News has:

• reported that 20 members of the Yale community attended a Master’s Tea featuring five notable mystery fiction writers, without noting that those same writers were all in town for a charity event that same evening, to be attended by hundreds of paying customers at the Shubert.

• described the New Haven Register, one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in the United States, merely as “a daily metro paper that covers New Haven and its suburbs,” not even awarding this centuries-old mainstay media outlet a “the” instead of an “a” in that dismissive description. The story notes that the Register “stopping printing its own paper in-house on March 4, 2012 (it is now sourced to the Hartford Courant location),” clearly confusing these rival entities as sister papers rather than as partners in a strictly-business arrangement which has one using the other’s press equipment. The New Haven Independent, meanwhile, which is run by a Yale alum, is mentioned twice in this Daily News article without apparently needing an introduction at all. The story’s headlined “New Haven Register to return to city,” as if the paper’s longtime Long Wharf address was not within city limits. (It is, and less than two miles from campus.)

• shown a curious attitude toward city politics. Both candidates in the current mayoral race attended Yale, so there’s not that sort of bias. What’s evident is a sort of scattered interest in the race which forces wishy-washy faux-analytical articles such as appeared on the front-page of the Yale Daily News’ Oct. 9 edition. On page one, the story is headlined “Swing Voters May Decide Election.” When the story jumps to page 4, the head reads “Swing Voters Role in Mayoral Election Unclear.”

• attended a lunch in honor of former Yale President Rick Levin (who stepped down from his post this year) and New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. (who is not running for reelection), when both men received “Founders Awards” from the Long Wharf Theatre. The final paragraph of the story reads “The Long Wharf Theatre was founded in 1965 by alumni of the Yale School of Drama.” Technically, this is not true, since co-founder Jon Jory actually quit his Yale School of Drama studies in order to start the community-based Long Wharf, and never finished his degree. And a follow-up sentence in that paragraph might have been obliged to mention that in 1966 the university created its own regional theater, the Yale Rep, in direct competition with the year-old Long Wharf, and just a few months later caused considerable consternation in the New Haven arts community by mentioning plans to take over the Long Wharf and absorb it into the School of Drama.

• noted the relocation of CitySeed’s downtown Wednesday farmers’ market from outside City Hall (on Church Street between Elm and Court) to New Haven Green (at the corner of Chapel and Temple). The story begins “The New Haven Green is celebrating its 375th birthday with its first-ever farmer’s market, which opened this summer to great fanfare.” The second paragraph repeats that the move was due to “the Green’s big anniversary.” A more astute reporter or editor might have mentioned that 2013 is in fact the anniversary of the founding of the entire city of New Haven, not just its Green. Town surveyor John Brocket did not formalize the famous nine-square city plan (with the Green in its center) until 1641. A bit more thought on the part of the writer or editor might also have led to the obvious realization that town greens historically are marketplaces, so that it’s a stretch to think that CitySeed would be New Haven Green’s “first-ever farmer’s market.” In fact, the Green was known as “the marketplace” before it was known as “the Green,” and foods were traded there for centuries. The Green has also had a meeting house, a cemetery and for many years a State House. It might be hard for Yalies to imagine New Haven as having a center of its universe that was not Yale University, but so it was.

Such errors and misconceptions pepper the Yale News on a daily basis, causing constant amusement and/or irritation among those of us with deeper understandings of the city of New Haven. These mistakes, misstatements and confusions seem to emanate from indifference as much as anything else.

If Yale’s traditions and details (from a cappella society pledge nights to major university awards to the correct labeling of an alum’s school and class year) were as casually treated in the university’s main news source as are New Haven’s, one suspects there’d be hell to pay. In townie matters, ignorance prevails.

Rock Gods #288: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

They’ve shut down the Bullfinch. We don’t know why. Or for how long. Every scenester in the state has peered through the windows by now, and noticed that nothing has been moved or taken away inside. It’s just, you know, not open.

Yet it’s there. So there. So very there. The Bullfinch is part of the social consciousness. Even if you don’t appear to partake of its services– the bands, the cocktails, the pinball– you’re in its debt. It adds an ineffable f-ing thing to the community.

They say that there used to be rowdy rock club, a ballroom they called it, on Cheese Street, the old factory district. It’s now a lawyers’ office. You’d never know it was once a club.

We’re just musing. The Bullfinch will be back. Won’t it? Its just that it’s been two days and everyone we’ve called either isn’t home or just doesn’t know.


At Hamilton’s (sob): two tribute bands and a horse… At D’ollaire’s (double sob): an evening with Even Steven…