Thursday, January 8, 2009

A piece of Cold War rock music swag

Here is a timepiece for you: a piece of Cold War rock music swag.

"Surface to Surface: Music Not Missiles," aka "Rock Not Rockets," was a tour organized for a rock band from the Soviet Union ca. 1989 - just before the USSR announced last call, started blinking the lights and said, "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."

The tour was organized by a manic young man who was brothers with someone I knew distantly in graduate school named Joe. I have forgotten Joe's brother's name or the name of their family, but I remember the guy was truly manic - as in, certifiably. When enduring a manic episode, he would do amazingly involved things like write a symphonic suite for a ukelele or somehow manage to finagle the U.S. State Department and the Kremlin into cooperating on a rock-&-roll tour exchange.

The band that came to the U.S., I recall, was named Gaza. Joe thought of me because he knew I had a grad school rock band, Enormous Richard. He thought I could help his manic brother arrange a St. Louis stop for the tour, and I did.

Enormous Richard opened for Gaza in Bowles Plaza, the open-air venue behind the student center at Washington University. I remember that they sounded like a slightly less punchy U2 and indulged in vaguely unconvincing rock & roll histrionics when performing.

Joe told me that the band was so impressed by the goodwill of the American people that they disgraced his brother by going AWOL from the tour and defecting to the U.S. I don't see mention of this development in the thumbnail online bio of the Russian band Sektor Gaza, though that band was also active in 1989 and is otherwise a candidate for the group we gigged with, so I assume the Gaza band we knew disappeared without the trace of a web presence.

I am digging up things like this Cold War rock swag in anticipation of the inaugural Local Indie Rock Swag Swap Meet, to be held 7-9 p.m. this Friday, January 9 (tomorrow) at The Schlafly Tap Room, 1221 Locust. The idea is for folks with a sleeve of shrinkwrapped CDs of a dead band or a box of T-shirts in their basement to get together and trade stuff. People in working bands are welcome, too; Thomas Crone and I will be spinning cassettes of dead local bands.

It will be followed by a promising triple bill: The Lettuce Heads, James Will and the Delusions of South Grandeur, and Last to Show, First to Go. It's all free.

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