Robert Lund - Man About Town
"I get all my news from the Waste down!"

Rock and Beyond

New York Waste, Dec. 2002


As many of you might perceive, my musical life seems to be centered around rock and punk these days. But as many of you might not know, it has not always been so. After my early days singing a cappella doo-wop on the streets and elsewhere, I went into a classical period - singing in choirs, doing a stint as a church organist and choir director, playing a harpsichord which I built (at home and in a 60s-ish band), and other forays beyond the world of rock-n-roll. Bach was the equivalent of a crazy rocker in his time, and it's all wonderful.

SO, although I've unfortunately never acquired any of their albums, every time I've heard the music or seen the videos of The Residents over the years, I've recognized that these people exist on a magical plane beyond that in which we live. So I knew I could not miss their show at Warsaw on Dec. 15th, the final date on their Demons Dance Alone Tour. Any expectations I harbored were far surpassed by this astounding performance, for which the elegant Warsaw ballroom provided an appropriate setting. The familiar eyeball heads are a thing of the past. Still not a face to be seen - the band lurked in the dark at the rear, clad in rags made of dark plastic netting, helmets and headphones covering their heads. The two singers (a man and a woman) wore camouflage suits, heads wrapped in rags, with masks ending below the nose lending a somewhat grotesque air to them. And throughout, a lone demon danced alone, in a ballet which enhanced the vivid nature of the songs. At one special moment, The Demon pranced on stage cradling what appeared to be a baby wrapped in red silk swaddling; when it was unwrapped to reveal a baby eyeball-being, the crowd went wild at the sight of their beloved familiar icon.

The troupe's other-worldly appearance contrasts the humanity conveyed by the poignant chansons, sung in alternating solos and in duo dialogs. My mind doesn't normally remember first-time lyrics, but one verse sung by the bizarre female stuck with me:
"If the father of the baby / That I know I'll never have / Wasn't married to the lady / I used to clean for when I was fat / Li-i-ife would be wonderful" (the last line is the chorus of the song of the same name). Oh, the humanity! We are occasionally reminded that there are actual humans within the costumes between the songs, like when the California voice of the male lead says "Here's another silly song from this aging hippie." The audience stood enraptured throughout the compelling performance, eyes wide and jaws dropped slack in wonder. Just as people who I've told about the concert usually respond with a faraway gaze, exclaiming "OH, You saw The Residents!" This group's output has been so bizarre, varied, and creatively rich throughout their 30-year career, they hold a well-deserved special place in most people's minds. As their tour logo proclaims, "Amazing the Muses - Confusing the Masses - for 30 Years"!

Ah, but the very next night is was back to NYC for an awesome rock show, "American Heavy," a compilation of rock bands put together by Pat (of Gaggle of Cocks). Special guest DJ Bobby Lundo provided seamless musical transitions between the live performances, and Kelly and Slim from supplied "lower class fashion for lower class people."
Peelander Z started off the evening with a stunning set. I sometimes have trouble relating when Western culture is absorbed by others and fed back to us, but these guys are truly impressive. One of the most admirable traits of the Japanese is their deep devotion to causes, from Toyota manufacture to kamikaze warfare; Peelander Z exemplifies this principle applied to punk rock. Elaborate costumes, wild antics, and fierce chopping vocals riveted the crowd's attention throughout. Next we were hit with the sounds of Sammytown Jones. "Punkabilly" is too limiting a tag for this music. Lead singer and guitarist Tony ("Mr. Rubbed Wrong") snarls his lyrics like some bastard child of Johnny Cash and Johnny Thunders, to a manic driving beat. And talk about snarling - here come The Slags. Three of the four slags on their web site have been replaced with former members of Devil's County Death Cult, and the result is a mean-sounding mix of solid rock and lead singer Danny's tortured but true vocals. The heavy-hitting brothers of the power duo known as USA Wasted kept the night going, sounding miraculously like a lot more than two guys. Drummer Jack Sabbath and singer/guitarist Dusty Sandusky approach punk nirvana with their frenetic tunes - truly excitable boys! And what better follow-up to these guys than the sweet sexy darlings of Candy Ass. There I was, trying to pick my favorite again (pointless...). Their "fun" songs move along like The Go-Gos from the dark side on speed, but Galadriel touched our hearts with her moving tribute "Hey, Johnny," for departed Bully Johnny Heff. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who could feel his presence on the Memorial Plaque on the wall to our right.


Finally Pat, the man who'd put the whole night together, took to the stage with his Gaggle of Cocks. I've raved about this band before, and I just can't rave enough. I could listen to hammering rage, intense precision syncopations and musical changes beyond the pale of this band all night. And the sound was even richer when Bully Walt Stack joined them for a song. But wait, those folks who left after Gaggle cuz they didn't know the last band really missed out this time. But when Pat says "check these guys out," I know they must be something. Thunderosa (from Rochester, NY) wrapped up the night with some thunderous rock and roll from the heartlands, coming at us like an 18-wheeled tanker of beer. I'm told they toured with The Reverend Horton Heat, which sounded entirely fitting to me. When it was all over, everyone shared that sweet exhaustion that comes from indulging in hard rock just a wee bit more than you really need to. The next American Heavy show will be held Jan. 10th at The Continental. I say, bloody exciting!

Is that all, you ask? Of course not! I just can't go on about everything else I did this month, or any month. Like the Sauna party atop the Gershwin Hotel, with Mad Juana; Frankie's "Week of Wood" birthday celebration, a music marathon; Mondo Porno at Arlene's; yet another great BITCH night at Don Hill's with Slunt and Queen V; Stan Ridgway (Wall of Voodoo, remember?) at Joe's Pub, then Eggplant Queens and Superthrive at Continental; and the amazing Jimi Hendrix 60th Birthday Tribute at Don Hill's - to mention but a few great nights. Never a dull moment in this town!