For Our Connecticut Readers

I hadn’t written anything about Robert Crotty dying. I was out of town when it was announced last month. He and I barely knew each other, hadn’t seen each other in years, came from different worlds.

And yet…

When I began writing the Music Notes column for the New Haven Advocate in 1991 and was dutifully doing my homework on who were the heavyweights in the local band scene, Crotty came up immediately. He’d been a fixture in blues bars for a while but was building a fresh following thanks to Mike Reichbart’s then-new Café Nine.
Crotty hosted a weekly blues jam at Café Nine for years, one which took on a different tone than the jazzier one he’d led in the 1980s at the Foundry Café in the Whitney/Audubon “arts district.”
When I started Band This Week, a companion column to Music Notes which profiled area musicians, Crotty was one my first interviews. I remember him being reluctant to talk, unlike his bandmate drummer “Mitch” Mitchell. He could be laid back and aloof onstage too, but there was no question who was in charge of the Robert Crotty Band. He commanded respect because nobody could question his natural talent, his fluid understanding of how to build a blues tune from an opening riff through a series of highs and lows into a forthright, soul-searching conclusion.
Crotty wasn’t cool or slick. He was Crotty.

This all came flooding back to me last week when I was at Café Nine and there was “Mitch” Mitchell. It was as if time had stood still, mainly because he was giving me grief for something I’d written about him 20 years ago. But he teared up a bit when talking about Crotty.
So did another guy there that night, ace bassist Bobo Lavorgna. Our chat wound round to a different local musical Bob, Bob Sheehan, who passed away a year or two ago. Like Crotty, Sheehan could be subdued and withdrawn at the bar, but never lacked confidence when playing, Onstage, they kept everything together—not as leaders but as masters. They hadn’t chosen their livelihoods. The music selected them.
I’m not the scene-dweller I used to be. I wonder if icons like Crotty ever appear in the present-day musical realm, or if that type is part of a vanished era. All I know is that I hadn’t seen Crotty play in years, yet I could feel the void.

Third Base!

Did the baseball season just end? It’s not that I lost interest, but the last few weeks wiped out the chances of one of the teams I follow (Red Sox) and did nothing to erode the extraordinary lead held by my other favorite (Tigers). It was combination of not wanting to look and not having to.
And it’s still that way in the post-season. The Red Sox are completely out of it—not struggling, not weakened, not braced for a comeback, simply not there at all. And Tigers vs. Yankees? I’m scared to look. Crossing my fingers and looking the other way.

Rock Gods #209: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

A miles- long traffic jam between our town and a certain big club in a certain major city. Two bands from this area en route, both on the bill, both hoping that if they can’t get there, least the other band might so “out of town nite” at the historic venue wouldn’t be a total loss.
” forty five minutes without moving, and we get out and wander around the highway,” recalls Paul straw of the sedents. “Just a few rows up, there’s the peripatetics’ van.”
The bands joined forces and honed a strategy. The peripats had a bike in their van, so Paul, a messenger by trade, took it and rode it to the nearest transit line, a guitar strapped to his back. A Paul revere of pop, he rides into town (back on the bike, having begged a transit guy to let him bring it on the train even though it wasn’t off peak), bellowing “The C-dents and The Peripatetics are coming! The C-dents and The Peripatetics are coming! At least that’s how they tell it.
Paul did a solo set, the bandmates arrived and traded of spins for the rest of the night. There was even a decent sized audience in the room, and a couple pod people who claimed to be agents.
Ride home? Don’t ask.

Bullfinch closed tonight for lack of cutting-edge bands. They’re varnishing the floors in order to catch some… Bold Venture and Diamond Drama at Hamilton’s, slinging covers… The Hashknife Hartleys and Hawaii Calls at D’ollaire’s, darlings…

Listening to… Fanzine

Fanzine, “Roman Holiday”
This early single from the forthcoming album My Stupid Brain begins like some bargain-bin discovery from the great age of faceless ‘70s riff-rock, then swells with woo-oo-oos and decidedly non-stadium vocals. The rawk turns human before your very ears.

Literary Up: Not Dean Koontz’ Frankenstein

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, Volume Two
Adapted by Chuck Dixon. Illustrated by Scott Cohn and Tim Seeley. Colors by Ale Starlin. Lettering and Collection Design by Bill Tortolini. Collection Cover by Brett Booth.

Koontz gets top billing in the comics adaptation, both as part of the title and just below it.

This version was originally issued in multiple-issue comics form, Volume 2 being the second collection of those individual comics. So the adaptation is already kind of stop/start and repetitive. But it also just has a different temperament and tempo from the novel version which begat it. To complicate matters, that novel grew from a 1994 TV miniseries project which Koontz left over creative differences with the USA network but which contains some of the same characters.

Koontz’s Prodigal Son novel (which originally bore a shared credit with Kevin J. Anderson) is easily the strongest of the three versions, though there’s no reason why the TV or comics series couldn’t have surpassed it. In all three, the story of a modern Prometheus is mapped out for maximum impact, intersecting with a slew of serial killings and the profound personal problems of the principal characters. The story is a police procedural, an insane-killer caper, a science fiction speculation, a noir thriller and an unhinged horror squeamfest all in one.

The illustrations in the graphic novel match the snappy sensationalism of its own comics-concise text, but neither captures the mood of Koontz’s sprawling and novel. Instead of the darkness that fills the book, there’s a constant glare.

Koontz’s books have lots of downtime built into them, where you begin to relate to his characters as humans because of the way they chat amiably with each other and go home to bed occasionally. There’s a few pages of car chat in the comic version, but it’s expositional rather than emotional. Having the structure streamlined shows you how much Dean Koontz has on the ball.

For Our Connecticut Readers: Radio (Shack) is a Sound Salvation

It’s kind of like an old ham radio signal beamed into space and returning years later, out of context but welcome and revealing.
It appears that Radio Shack is coming back to the Chapel Street, across from the Green.
The place is being readied for opening. It’s one of the few filled storefronts on a block that was once a bustling urban shopping mall.
Strangely, it was one of the last shops in the mall. One of the last thriving ones, anyhow. Radio Shack stands alone.
In the years it’s been away, the Radio Shack chain has changed its tune, and its tuners. It used to be a place you could wander into as you would into a hardware store, in search of a transistor or an audio splitter or an A-B switch, and they’d know what you were talking about. In recent years, the stores have become less about do-it-yourselfing and more about ready-made electronic appliances.
Isn’t it funny that the same month that an Apple Store sprouts up downtown, Radio Shack reappears? In this age of staycations and home offices, are computers and viewing screens the only surefire business opportunity?
Why ask why (or wire)? Just enjoy the charge.

Archie Rhymes and Alliterations

Latest sweet of noteworthy weeks from the titles of Archie stories gag pages. This time, they all emanate from Jughead Jones Digest Magazine #67 (February 1991).
Rare pair
Rebel Robot
Code Three
Wide Birth “D-uh… I was in born in South America!” “What part, Moose?” “D-uh! All of me!”)
Help Un-Wanted
Rest in Peace
Winning Wand
Snow Snicker
Every Which Way But Jughead
Snow Woe
Snow Job
Big Fight Tonight
The Latest Report
Some Kind of Emergency
Line Design
Nice Advice
Kitchen Kapers

…and a four-part epic with these chapter titles:
Winter Wishes
The Great Crashers
Love It or Lump It
Ah, Sweet Mystery

Rock Gods #208: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

We don’t write enough about the fights. We justify it thus: we’re there for the bands. We don’t write about drink specials, or wall fixtures, or the paper the schedules are printed on either.
Except, sometimes we do. (200 gram #74 medium cardstock! A draft and a half on Wednesdays between 4 & 7 p.m.!) So here’s what we say about the fights:
Too many of ‘em right at the front door of the Bullfinch. At Hamilton’s, where folks still bother to go inside and get drunk first, the side room might as well have a ring of rope around it and a bell in the corner. D’ollaire’s is the only place with a surefire, if draconian, mechanism for quelling the violence—a phalanx of well-paid bouncers. Your high ticket fees at work.
The problem is not the alcohol, we suggest.
The problem is not even those wretched metal bands which exhort everyone to “go wild,” or the well-intentioned indie bands which advise us to “rise up.”
The problem is the perception of our culture as a place to cut loose. Which it always has been, in the artistic sense. But now the finer distinction have been moshed and pulped and windmilled away.

Whatever happened to schoolyards and loading docks? Take it outside, fellas.

Folk frolics at the ‘Finch with The Ol’ Dirt Daubers and Korn’s-a-Krackin’, with a short opening story-song set by The Jean Shepherds… A couple of bands which crave audience suggestions at the cover-song coven Hamilton’s: Let George Do It and Pick & Pat… Case Dismissed and Gulf Headliners, trying to be civil at D’ollaire’s, but they must be bummed that there’s not a larger place to play in the area…