Sunday, July 22, 2012

A portrait of two dancers: Beatle Bob and Jay-Jay

Beatle Bob anointing Enormous Richard at our first reunion show at CBGB.

Last night I went to a local rock band reunion concert at Off Broadway, where the Heebie Jeebies played for the first time in 18 years and the Boorays for the third time since then. My band Enormous Richard came up at the same time as these bands, played many gigs together in the early days of Cicero's Basement, so this promised to be a nostalgia trip.

It really wasn't. I was never transportated back to better days gone by. I just got absorbed into the present moment of two truly great rock bands brilliantly executing inventive and tasteful arrangements of vivid, interesting material. They totally rocked!

They didn't even look bad doing it, as we middle-aged rockers tend to do, since the two front men are aging well. Kip Loui of the Heebie Jeebies looks ageless, sporting a goatee as if to prove he is old enough to whisker. Mark Stephens of the Boorays is a little older than most of us from that vintage of the scene, and looked a little older, cooler and wiser back then. Now he looks like a nicely cleaned up version of that exact guy, wearing newer used thrift store clothes -- still cooler and wiser than us, but now also, somehow, younger.

I know quite a bit about most of the people in these bands and did the inevitable memory lane tripping, but the music was actually better than I remembered it. The songs were better than I remembered and the execution was much better. Surprisingly for a reunion show, living in the present was more interesting than living in the past.

It helped that throughout both sets I was witness to something I must have seen before, but never when I fully grasped what I was seeing and what it meant: I saw Jay-Jay work the same local rock dance floor as Beatle Bob.

It's hard to summarize these characters without losing newcomers, but Beatle Bob was starting to emerge on the scene when our bands were doing gigs in the late '80s and early '90s. With his Beatles mop and suit, Bob did zippy dance moves right in front of the band and showered the anointed band with fanboy enthusiasm delivered by a professional. Bob built this schtick into a brand, now a national brand, they tell me.

Jay-Jay came up on local dance floors later, when Beatle Bob was already more famous than any of the local bands he anointed. Jay-Jay had no appreciable costume or signature haircut, much less schtick overall. That said, Jay-Jay could command a dance floor, call attention to himself with repetitive, mannered dance strokes, and radiate passionate fanboyism at the band like he and they were the only things in the room; on the Earth.

Jay-Jay was the amateur, Beatle Bob was the pro, but everyone understood that an understudy had emerged.

Me and Jay-Jay a few years ago when he bought my drawing, no doubt. of some local rocker.

Last night I got to stand for more than an hour and watch the two of them, Beatle Bob and Jay-Jay, work the same local room, the same dance floor, the same great local bands from their heyday.

Beatle Bob picked a corner early in the Heebie Jeebies set - right up against stage right, at Alex Mutrux's feet - and did his thing there. He came out of his dance groove briefly to introduce the Boorays, but then leapt right back into that stage right corner and stayed tucked tightly in the peculiar, slashing mannerisms of his dance. Bob's solipsism is more total than ever now. A man who did a repetitive dance has become a repetitive dance with a man inside there somewhere.

Jay-Jay, on the other hand, would saunter to the edge of the dance floor like an ordinary show-goer, get moved by the band, or not, get more into it, or not. The difference between Jay-Jay and the average show-goer is when he did get more into the band, he got a lot more into the band. Next thing you know, his passionate fanboy dancing is the biggest show in the room; on the Earth.

It was fun to compare their big shows.

Beatle Bob's signature dance goes dervish when it gets intense. It's a disjointed circling phenomenon that gets faster and a little wider in circumference, with more violent elbow pops and knee kicks. Jay-Jay goes vertical, straight up in the air toward the ceiling, with this human pogo stick quality that he innovated. The shortest man on any dance floor, Jay-Jay hits the heighest heights.

Jay-Jay also digs much deeper down into the raw guts of the human heart than we have ever seen Beatle Bob journey in the dance.

Last night there was one Heebie Jeebies transition, a thrilling jolt from familiar chorus to a new and unexpected melody, a suddenly bright bridge back to where we began, when Jay- Jay did the splits -- his short legs were split open as wide as he is ever going to get them -- then he plunged forward, face-first, and slapped the wooden dance floor with the palm of his hand for all he was worth.

That was rock & roll.


Sorry the pictures are of me and these dancers. It's all I have. Last night I did not want to be running around with a camera.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bootblogging #23: Three by the Heebie Jeebies

I'm excited to see the Heebie Jeebies reunion at Off Broadway on Saturday night, tripled up with the Karate Bikini CD release party and The Boorays re-re-reunion.

The Off Broadway website is telling me doors open at 8 p.m., the music starts at 9 p.m., it only costs $5 if you are old enough to drink, and Kip Loui tells me half of the proceeds go to KDHX Community Media.

Kip and I go way back. I once had and dearly miss what I believe was the first Heebie Jeebies recording on cassette. I asked Kip if I could bootblog a few tracks from the past, and he posted them on Sound Cloud for just that purpose. Why don't you give a listen while I natter on about the old days, below?

Sorry Kip's face has to be so huge.

Come to think of it, there isn't much point to nattering on about the old days, is there? You have your own old days, which are more interesting to you than mine. Or, you are not yet old, in which case the chances are good you're not going to sit in rapt fascination reading yarns of yore on the blog of an aging local rocker.

But I always dug the Heebie Jeebies, the Boorays maybe even more, and Karate Bikini is the bee's knees as well. I plan to be attendance at this live musical performance.

Image from Skreened.

More in this series

Bootblogging #1: Three by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #2: Three elegies for local musicians
Bootblogging #3: Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #4: Three more by The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #5: Chuck Reinhart's guitar circle hits
Bootblogging #6: The silly side of The Lettuce Heads
Bootblogging #7: Songs for "Divorcing God"
Bootblogging #8: More songs for "Divorcing God
Bootblogging #9: Adam Long presents The Imps!
Bootblogging #10: More Michael Shannon Friedman
Bootblogging #11: The Adversary Workers
Bootblogging #12: The May Day Orchestra
Bootblogging #13: Solo Career live in Santa Monica
Bootblogging #14: Four from The Funhouse (Seattle punk)
Bootblogging #15: Four more from The Funhouse (Seattle punk rock)
Bootblogging #16: I will be your volunteer! (for Bob Slate)
Bootblogging #17: Yet more The Lettuce HeadsBootblogging #18: Four by Russell Hoke
Bootblogging #19: Krakersy (is Crackers in Polish)
Bootblogging #20- Four by Grandpa's Ghost
Bootblogging #21: Eight by Jaime Gartelos
Bootblogging #22: Five by Bob Reuter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Readings at The Royale: Bombs & Monsters; July 25

Poetry Scores' "Readings at The Royale" series returns 7-9 p.m. next Wednesday, July 25 at The Royale public house, 3132 South Kingshighway; Steven Fitzpatrick Smith, proprietor.

At no cost additional to drinks and eats, the public may experience, in this order:

Stefene Russell
Chris Chable
Chris Parr
Kristin Sharp
Uncle Bill Green

Ann Hirschfeld

Edward Scott Ibur

The occasion: Poetry Scores is reissuing the artbook/CD of our poetry score to Go South for Animal Index by Stefene Russell, copublished with The Firecracker Press.

Go South for Animal Index is a poem about bombs and monsters, and this is a themed reading: poems, songs and stories about bombs and monsters.

Everybody gets about 17 minutes of face time, starting pretty promptly at 7ish. Chris King will emcee, giving elliptical one-line intros and sneaking in about three of his own short bombs and monsters poems throughout the evening.

Poetry Scores translates poetry into other media. Though a live reading of poetry is a translation of poetry into voice, our mission compels to go the extra mile of media.

We are curators of Noah Kirby's sculpture With Solid Stance and Stable Sound, which currently is installed in the back courtyard at The Royale. That's where we'll be performing. It is expected that one or more of the poets will translate a poem through the medium of Noah's sculpture.

The event is free and open to the public. Just come out back to the courtyard. The Go South for Animal Index reissue will be available for sale. Questions?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poems published in Smithers (B.C.), Hackney (London) and Balmain (Australia)

I'm not a poet, but I play one on Twitter. At least I follow a lot of publications on Twitter and sometimes follow prompts to submit poems. Mostly, you miss. Sometimes, you hit. I just landed three poems in a row in three different exotic places.

My poem "What you get is what you see" is in the book The Enpipe Line: 70,00+ kilometres of poetry written in resistance to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal published by Creekstone Press (Smithers BC Canada).

I'm enough of a Simpsons fan to really like the idea of being able to say I am "big in Smithers".

Actually, I am really little in Smithers, or at least in this book, with just one poem that runs 18 lines (haven't measured the metres) of our poetic pipeline. The 18 was deliberate -- the poem is written in the 7/11 form innovated by the St. Louis Quincy Troupe, which I tweaked a little. Troupe does lines alternating 7 and 11 syllables, and I added trying to do it in two stanzas with 7 and 11 (=18) lines.

The Enpipe Line was the brainchild of Christine Leclerc, a Vancouver-based author and activist, and she edited the book as part of an editorial collective that culled these 175 pages out of the 70,000+ kilometres of poetry they published online. I'd like to meet her one day and ask why they picked my poem, one of many I sent that were all added to the online pipeline. I'd guess because it's totally not about the tar sands or politics, and so provides a quirky interlude.

I also have the poem "Seekonk" in a issue #5 of nifty little inc. magazine published out of Hackney, London.

Issue #5 of inc. is also known as The Postcard Issue, and there's a brilliant concept behind that. The editors Anya Pearson and Will Coldwell asked for short poems, with the idea of laying them out as postcards with partner illustrators working to each poem. Each poem gets art the size of a postcard to run on the opposite of the page, and facing the poem is the address line used for credits and a postage stamp also made by the companion artist. The Postcard Issue of inc. is just one of the coolest literary artifacts I've seen.

My poem is not one of the better pieces, but I love the crude art that MSTR Gringo did to my crude little poem.

Seekonk, if you don't know, is a hard little town in Massachusetts on the Rhode Island line. I come from Granite City, Illinois, where the hard white people are called "hoosiers". I went to Boston University on a Navy ROTC scholarship which is how I learned about "Massholes". All this came back to me when visiting the Providence, Rhode Island area as a travel writer; hence the poem.

"Seekonk" also is cast in Troupe's 7/11 form, though it has 14 lines, like a sonnet, because I couldn't get the poem to work in 7, 11 or 18 lines. Forms are made to be tampered with.

And here just the other day I got in the mail the July-August 2012 of Quadrant, an Australian magazine of ideas published out of Balmain,a suburb of Sydney in New South Wales.

I gather its politics trends toward the quadrants on the right of the spectrum, but the literary editor, the great poet Les Murray, is a friend and correspondent. When I send him the next letter, I throw some poems in the envelope and some see print in Australia.

This time, Les took "Sorrow of God," a serious poem I am very proud of. Like everything I am doing these days, it's cast in Troupe's 7/11 form, though I count 10 and not 11 lines, which makes me wonder how hard I tried to find an 11th line for this thing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Casualties of the State" & my Elly very partial payback

Could you say no to this face? Not if you were me.

This face belongs to V. Elly Smith. Not long ago she asked me to act in two scenes in a movie she was shooting. I couldn't say no. So I played two scenes as a guy named "Chris King," the blowhard producer-talent on the podcast Kingmakers.

On Sunday evening, St. Louis will have the chance to see my two scenes and the rest of Casualties of the State, an FBI procedural set in Washington, D.C. but shot here. A work-in-progress cut of the movie screens 6:15 p.m. Sunday, July 8 at The Tivoli in the Loop. It's part of the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase produced by Cinema St. Louis.

I haven't seen the movie we will see on Sunday, but I did see an earlier cut, which is how I ended up getting the acting assignment. The filmmakers really pressed the preview audience for feedback, and responding to some of my criticisms led them to create a new part. They then had the good sense to put to work the guy who created the work, me, to play the part.

My connection to the project is Elly. Anyone who ever worked with Elly would double over backwards to help her out. I directed a feature movie shoot for Poetry Scores that dragged on for two years, and Elly was with us for that whole long haul. She is super resourceful, talented, tireless and utterly a joy to work with.

In the St. Louis indie movie scene, you know, mostly we don't pay each other. So when I say I owe Elly, I mean I owe Elly. Big time. This doesn't even begin to settle the debt.


Casualties of the State on imdb
Official trailer