No Cause for Concern? Issue #8 | October 1983 | Page 14 | On the Road with Porcelain Forehead
On the Road with
by Mike Hillis
A synth band grabbed our gig in Toronto, so we drove through the night to Windsor. My folks put us up and kept us fed, but it was hellish. Friday night had us checkin' out the space we were to play Saturday, Waterfront Live, obviously scene of more poetry readings than nasty punk rock gigs.
The organizer of our show, Dave Bösche, played on the Friday with the band he's in, BUNNY GAME. They started out great with their signature song "Bunny Game", but after a number of reprises of it during the course of their set, it kinda wore itself thin. The drummer didn't have stands for his drums, they were all positioned around him on cushions. They were pretty funny for a while, good and scathing. They mutated a song by another Windsor band, the SPYS' "Machine Shop", which the drummer played on tuba and the rest of 'em sang acapella. FLIPPER's "Sex Bomb" was a cool encore tune (replete with sax), but they didn't go apeshit on it as they've been known to in the past.
Then the SPYS played, this was something like their sixth reunion gig. They put out a 45 abut 3 years ago ("underground"/ "Machine Shop"), and their singer, Frank Carone, was also in the RONALD REAGAN STORY. Doug from FLESH COLUMNS played a song with them, which sort of made 'em more credible for that tune. (Doug is super-intense, FLESH COLUMNS should have some vinyl on Touch & Go soon!) I remember the SPYS as being garage-y punk way back when, but I guess since the aural onslaught of "thrash", sensibilities've bent so that bands like the SPYS come off sounding more good-timey. I don't know, I didn't see them, but apparently their guitarist's moves were a bit much. Frank reciprocated by passing on US the NEXT night!
DREGS OF SOCIETY played with us Saturday night. From what I'd been told, they were supposed to be more of a joke than anything, but fuck, they were GOOD! Their anger came through loud and clear, with lyrics said to reflect intelligence and real concern. Doug from FLESH COLUMNS played with them, too, and as if his life depended on it. Not meaning to dote on people's appearances but (here I go anyway), Lorenzo looks kinda like a punk Henry Kissinger come to his senses... (WHAT!?)
Some of my ol' buddies were alienated by our performance -- they haven't (for the most part) been exposed to too much raunch stuff since the days the Dickies and S.L.F. were the fastest bands going. My folks were there was well, and must've been freaked out watching me roll around backwards on the floor with foot firmly inbetwixt teeth during "Gnawing' On...(Neurotic Song)". Later my mom rationalized that I must've read too many MAD magazines as a kid, and that I was "demented" (at which point Bruce chortled on his orange juice behind a newspaper)! HA!
She gave us a bottle of rye which we drank with Dave Newsome of NAPALM BABIES and Jacqui in London. They're great, they've got a swimming pool! Ian turned drunkard, t'was funny. We wrote a new tune ("Cold Steak", the title a sort of take-off on James Brown's "Cold Sweat") at NAPALM BABIES' practice space on Dave's parents' farm the next day, and played it that night, even! The bar we played was Fry Fogle's, a sort of unkempt Barrymore's with disgustingly oversized hotdogs the food staple.
NAPALM BABIES are dynamite, they're really something special! Actually, what they do is "shred!" No shit! What they've done with the Beatle's "Here Comes the Sun" is truly indicative of genius: "Little darlin', I see your face is slowly melting / Little darling', I feel it's getting hard to breathe / Here comes a bomb / Here comes that bomb and I say... it's alright!" Not only are they whizkids when it comes to reworking not-bad songs into great ones (G.B.H.'s "Sick Boy") but they've created lots of great stuff themselves: "Teenage Suicide", "I Wanna Kill My Relatives", etc. Dave calls their songs, yeah, "good parody" and he's fucking' right on! Good partyers who deserve better in their own city.
On to the bridge to the U.S. of A., where we were supremely fucked over by the goddamn Yankee revenuers. we weren't allowed into their stinking country on our first attempt, and they fined us $75 -- rather arbitrarily it seemed -- 'cause we didn't have a prescription with us to prove that Chris' antibiotic wasn't something sinister. Bastards! Discouraged, we considered just going back to Ottawa then and there, but decided to try again at the tunnel after we'd piled our equipment up at my parents' house. Without a trailer on the car, we'd look less suspicious and be less conspicuous. We figured we'd probably meet people who'd lend us equipment, and that'd be alright for the Ohio gigs -- but we agreed that we'd cancel the gigs we had set up out East. Travelling from, say, Boston back to Windsor to get our stuff would be too much for our nerves -- not to mention the fact that after the car broke down in Akron, it'd be impossible!
Well, suffice it say, we somehow weren't interrogated at the border the second try, and that night we played a house party in the college town of Kent, Ohio (National Guard 4, Student, 0). If we told anybody we stuck our fingers in bullet holes on the campus there, we were bullshitting.
Playing at this house was more like busking than actually playin' a GIG, but people scrounged for their last pennies after hearing about the shit at the border. It was fun! The organizer was a guy named Dave Giffles (sp.?), coincidentally the third organizer we'd encountered so far, and the third one named Dave. He and his bro' (Ralph)'ve got this band, DIFFA-CULT who played this party with us. They were kinda nervous, but that only added to their neatness. D. McCaig flipped out over their song "Garbage" -- my favourite one was one they let a friend of theirs sing, "Artsy Fartsy (Picasso's Dead)". Some thought they resembled Wire in sound, but they've never hear of Wire. Real charmers, like the Modern Lovers (circa '72) or something.
After we played, GUMBY'S REVENGE did a few songs -- their singer, Levent, is from Quebec originally, and the fact that we were from Canada intrigued him. They explained that their name comes from, well, didn't YOU rip YOUR Gumby up the middle?! They were noisy with lurching rhythms, kinda Flipperish in that way. Levent puts out a 'zine, Operation All-Out, with Jimmy Dread and Dan Yell of URBAN MUTANTS. We stayed at their place in Akron and they blasted their tape at us -- they're great! -- fast and raunchy with weird country/jazz guitar riffs. I gave Jimmy my Monkees shirt I thought he was so cool.
Friday night we were back in Kent, feasting' with Tommy Strange of RAGGED BAGS. Tommy also plays guitar in ZERO DEFEX, but sings in RAGGED BAGS. His stage presence is awesome -- he sits in a chair most of the time onstage and does he ever fucking get into it! Tommy was fairly accurate when he said Ragged Bags took bands like the Cramps, the Velvet Underground and the Birthday Party as inspiration -- Fairly accurate, but comparisons just don't convey the power of THEIR music to you. These guys have got roots! And their art is their own.
SACRED GUNS were the headliner however -- they saw us the night before at Reality House and deemed us too obnoxious in approach to play with them at this bar. That isn't why I didn't like them, really! I didn't like 'em 'cause they sounded like a third-rate no-soul Gang-of-4 ripoff with Loverboy flashiness -- ecch! (ooo-NASTY!)
Their drummer was a real hot player for sure but the music lacked real substance; they tried to be "political" but only came across as namby pamby and gutless. (now that IS mean! jeez...)
Saturday night had us playing in Cleveland with P.P.G., OUTERWEAR, and SOCIAL UNREST at some dank hall, I forget what it was called. Tommy Dark (of the DARK) put on this one. First up was P.P.G., fast thrash with cool, committed people playing. Their name was taken from one of the more prominent chemical producers in the dead lake area. Vince Ransid, their drummer, is the guy who illustrated the cover the the Multi-Death Corporations e.p. sleeve (Vatican Commandos too!) He and Jimi Imij (ZERO DEFEX's singer) put out Slam 'zine (17 issues), and they also had a lot to do with the NORTHEAST OHIO compilation album that is probably out by now... yup, it's out. It's called "New Hope".
We heard a test pressing of it, it seemed to be a mix of grinding abrasive almost-industrial and too-fast thrash. Pretty good! The OFFBEATS from Cleveland stood out as being kind of, well, offbeat I guess. The DARK's on it, they're more lurky, ZERO DEFEX's classic "Drop the A-Bomb On Me" is on it, STARVATION ARMY (controversial lately 'cause they aren't as overtly 'political' as they once were)...
OUTERWEAR's on it too, they played after P.P.G. Dave Champion once called us "art-damage" (is this a genre?), and that's definitely what Outerwear were -- fuckin' noise! Some of their music verged on being ACCESSIBLE, reminding me how it took at least ten listens to Captain Beefheart's "Trout Mask Replica" before I even BEGAN to appreciate it. Yeah, Outerwear were noise, but engaging noise! Two of 'em had their heads bandaged up a la Nash the Slash, and their sound was torturous. Guess they try to alienate everybody!
We borrowed I don't know who's equipment and sounded horrendous. The solid state amps compressed our sound so that our quieter passages sounded as loud as a gnarly bit should have -- frustrating! Oh well, nobody seemed to mind. Vince Ransid sang "Corporate pigs run my word..." and I got picked up by some of the Kent and Akron folks and carried around the place. Good thing the mike cord was so long!
SOCIAL UNREST played and us Ottawa idiots got into some friendly-type (not mean or anything) slammin' -- yup, we did! We were obviously new at it, I betcha. My favourite tune that Social Unrest did was that funky one off the 12", "I Love You". The songs I recognized I like a lot but the stuff I hadn't heard sounded kinda standard. All in all, a great night, even though American beer as an intoxicant is a corporate scam. Hey, ya know what? They've got Maximum Rock 'n' Roll Radio in Cleveland and everything! Cool!
Lucky our car broke down in Akron and not somewhere real scary! This amazing guy Carl got us back on the road, and we headed back to Windsor to get our stuff. Vince Ransid got a lift back with us and stayed overnight in Windsor. His Mohawk kinda freaked out my Mom. The next day he hitchhiked back across the border to make his way to Lansing to live with some of the CRUCIFUCKS. Mel and Dave gasped in horror as I fried up a pound of bacon that morning.
Buy now we were certain we'd played our last gig ever, there was so much animosity amongst everybody, things were fucked -- awful vibes! Mel and Dave decided to take a bus back, ostensibly to stop over in Hamilton to show Mel's grandma that David isn't really a horrible cradle-robber. The rest of us (the onstage people, the music-makers) got to stretch out our weary limbs in the car on the ride back for a change, portable cassette player blastin' the REPLACEMENTS for the umpteenth time. It seems we might be able to hold this unit together a bit longer, but being "on the road" has proven to be a most trying experience, a real effort, a lot of work (psychic and otherwise), a mad scramble -- just like real life! It was well worth all the shit, we met great people and found out a lot about each other and ourselves. Another cassette that we played a lot of MINOR THREAT -- groovin' on their lyrics I would certainly agree that their "Out of Step" 12" is profound indeed.