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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Boston Rock of the 1980s: The Pixie Theater

Band Seeks Rehearsal Space

It’s 1985 and after a year and a half in Tony’s dad’s basement on Austin Street, Hyde Park and since we have started playing at Chet’s Last Call, TT the Bears and a number of high profile clam bakes, we decided that Cool McCool is ready to move into its first real rehearsal studio.

But where do we go? Rehearsal space is hard to find in the Boston area and generally not cheap. There were the Lennox street studios out in suburban Norwood…way too expensive and not particularly close either.  They were charging $350.00 a month! There’s that place under Kenmore Square behind what is now Pizzeria Uno (and where the rock club Storyville used to be).  No, way too creepy. The place was more like an underground dungeon than a studio space, a claustrophobic labyrinth of darkness and despair! In other words, nothing different than anything you’d find in the Boston area. I think Til Tuesday rehearsed there at one point. Don’t know how they did it.

The Pixie Theater

But since we were based in the Hyde Park area, the southernmost neighborhood of Boston, there was a place right off of Cleary Square named Joseph A. Logan Square over the store fronts that was known to the musicians who rented there as The Pixie Theater or “The Pixie”.  The place originally opened in 1915 as The Everett Square Theatre and then became the Fairmount Theatre after 1934 when the city of Boston changed the name of Everett Square to Joseph A. Logan Square. In the 1970s it became the Nu-Pixie Cinema, and it was known as Premiere Performances by the 1980s, before becoming an auction hall and then being abandoned. But it wasn't abandoned at all. The actual theater stage was still there but the place had fallen into disrepair over the years and the guy who owned the place didn't feel it was worth putting money into so he partitioned the upstairs into rehearsal rooms sometime in the mid-1980s and became the home of some very good working Boston bands.

Bands entered through the big double doors at street level and took the LONG, wide and somewhat steep stairway that ran straight up to the 2nd floor with no interruption to where the rooms were laid out on both sides of a single long hallway to the right of the stairs. There was nothing like hauling stuff up this thing at 2:30 in the morning.  But what are you gonna do, give up SHOWBUSINESS?

There was a large room available at the top of the stairs. Good position but it was $185.00 1985 dollars and for three marginally employed musicians living on our own we didn't even have that kind of dough so we were fortunate enough to talk another band, friends of James our guitar player, into sharing the room with us. Dave Y and John B had a band called Those Damned Kids and who later went on to back up Ms. Xanna Don’t in the most successful act of her Boston career. Dave Y himself went on to form the Boston band Nisi Period which had a local hit with “Treat Her Like a Sailor”.

The rooms at the Pixie were pretty well insulated. You could hear the band next door if they were rehearsing but you wouldn't be put off by it. The sound was well muted and when you were playing, that’s all you could hear. As a band we didn't have to alter our volume to “get over” the band next door. Not bad.

Moving In

So now we’re all set, we've told the building manager, Bob…something, that we have a band to go in on the Pixie space with us and paid him the first and last and WE’RE IN! Our first “professional” rehearsal space complete with its punk-esque black lacquered Styrofoam covered walls, a bare light bulb hanging from the high ceiling to light the WHOLE ROOM and a vibrating couch/lounger that the last band left there perhaps because it weighted about 400 lbs. Apparently it had been in almost every room in the Pixie at one time or other. Everyone desired it but nobody wanted to lift it. How it ever even got up those straight-assed two flights of steps was something I would have liked to see. But there is was and it worked and that was the important thing.

It felt good to be out of Tony’s dad’s basement. Among the more obvious issues of carving a space out of a cluttered basement and squeezing our stuff in and out of the bulkhead door in the back of the house, Tony’s dad, Petro, was always coming down and interrupting our rehearsals asking if we wanted sandwiches and the like and Tony was always saying “Not now, dad!” 

We thanked Petro for letting us have use of his basement and giving us a place to get our ideas into song. For this and his other acts of kindness, we lovingly hold him in our hearts today. He truly enjoyed his role as our benefactor and for this we are forever grateful.

Tony’s Dad Returns

So here we are playing our first set in the new room, safely ensconced behind two locked doors and a virtual Himalaya of a staircase. Nobody could bother us now! Wait, there’s a commotion out in the hallway, I hear a voice. No, wait, it couldn't be…and in walks Tony’s dad! “I missed you boys!” he says. “We missed you too, Petro, we say”.

We Are Not Alone

There were many Boston bands rehearsing at the Pixie at that time. The one next door to us was called Forever 19 they were playing all over town and I’d say they most sounded like “Quarter Flash” that Canadian band that recorded “Harden My Heart”.

There was also Rob Nordberg’s band The Faith, an original rock band with keys, which played the Boston Scene and more local Hyde Park establishments. Rob Played drums for more than one act up at the Pixie. Other bands included Frankie Holland’s long time band, Alpha Whiskey and the local popular band, Uncalled For fronted by my friend and guitar hero, Mike DeSimone, had also rented a room there for a time. Then there were The Preapistics a band we played our first gig with at Chet’s.

Evenings after 5pm were busy at the Pixie. People loading in, out and people coming and going either trying out for one of the bands or coming in to hang out, drink beer and listen to their friends band. People would pop their heads into the rooms to ask if they had strings or hoot or to just say “hi” since nobody locked their doors until they left. Very few break-ins ever occurred there since people always seemed to be around. It was 24 hour access even though people lived over the storefronts right across the street.

Hearing Aid Joe

There was also a guy named Joe or as we called him, “Hearing Aid Joe” because he was deaf in one ear and had a hearing aid in the other.  Joe was older than us like in his mid-30s and had rented at the Pixie the longest of anybody. His room was on our side of the hallway, three doors down. Bob said that until all these new bands started moving into the Pixie and began playing out regularly; Joe had only ever used the Pixie to bring chics to. I could never imagine a woman wanting to take her pants off in ANY room in the Pixie but that’s what Bob said. Anyway, since all these bands started playing out, Joe decides to put his band back together. As a guitar player, Joe played a double Marshall stack and his bass player did the same. I don’t know how many watts that added up to but they could move a lot of air!

Working original acts of the day didn't travel that heavy.  James had a solid state Crate amp with 2 - 12’ speakers with 100 watts of power and I used a Peavey 100 watt Combo amp with one 15’ speaker, still do. Tony was sporting a Jazz kit at the time that was very portable. We would bargain on a decent stage throw, mic the amps and let the house PA do the rest of the work.

But Joe’s band was something else.

Who Is That Band Next Door?

Together with the most impossibly loud drummer I've ever heard, Joe’s band would rehearse a couple nights a week. We tried to make sure we weren't there at the same time because when those guys played, it was like time fucking stood still. Communication in our room became impossible and we were reduced to making hand motions or literally cupping our hands over the other person’s ear to speak into. People would come into our room and yell “That band next door is fucking LOUD!” and we’d just nod because we couldn't tell ‘em that they didn't know the half of it.

Then, when they took a break, the band would TURN THEIR GUITARS INTO THE AMPS causing massive feedback and then they would just sit down and smoke a joint while everything went: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I can’t remember his name but there was a guy who had a room on the other side of Joe’s who had the only cover band in the Pixie and his band would go nuts when Joe took his “break”.

Leaving the Pixie after one of Joe’s rehearsals, the people in the apartments across the street would yell at us because of the noise. Hard to convince them it wasn't us.

The More You Sweat…

Being up near the roof, a flat black tar roof, made Summer rehearsals a sweat-fest. There were no windows and there was no air conditioning causing our drummer Tony to coin the phrase “The more you sweat, the better you get.” And to a certain extent that turned out to be true. We busted our asses up there in that room and we got tight, real tight. It didn't matter what the conditions were, we were lean, mean, fighting machines because of the Pixie and we would often play 4 nights a week.  Our friends all knew where we’d be if they wanted to see us, either at the Pixie or at a gig.

The Official Beer of Rehearsal

Since we were on a shoe-string budget, our beer of choice was a 12 pack of Old Milwaukee since it could be had for $5.00 or under and that meant 4 beers apiece, enough to last the practice without getting us toasted. Decades later James and I still drink the stuff. Old habits are hard to break.  During the late 90’s James moved to the island of St Croix for a couple of years and the number one beer down there apparently is also our brand. He was told by the local Rastas that he was the only white guy they ever saw who drank Old Milwaukee.

Peavey Equipment

Loading in and out of the Pixie made for some interesting events. We rarely had to use our PA on the road but one time a friend was helping us lug one of our old Peavey speakers, big unwieldy square boxes with a 15’ speaker and horn built in,  up the ‘steeps’ of the Pixie and when he gets to the top of the stairs the thing slips out of his hands.

The speaker cabinet quickly reached escape velocity and rocketed down the two flights and, KAP-POW, the heavy double doors bang against the outside walls as the cab sails through them then over the sidewalk and finally tumbling to rest on the opposite end of the empty street at 2:30 in the morning. I was about 4 feet from the door when this happened. Terror quickly turned to horror as we grabbed up the speaker and the rest of the stuff and returned the neighborhood, since the long suffering people of Joseph A. Logan Square had a hair trigger for such goings on, to silence.

We plugged the speaker in later and it worked fine. The thing was barely dented. Peavey equipment of the 80s was not just hard to lift, the cabs were unbreakable.  When the end of the world does come, there will be only cockroaches and old Peavey speaker cabs left.

All Good Things

We spent almost 4 years at the Pixie Theater and many of the bands were playing out regularly, writing and performing great material and actually making some money. And sometime early in 1989 Bob Had to inform us that the owner of the building has sold out and that the Pixie, at least the top of it, is going to become dentist offices. Bob was pretty down about it since after all the time he was running the place that just as the bands were actually making names for themselves; the Pixie had to come to an end.

As a band, 1989, with 6 years of playing together under our belts, found us at the top of our game. We had an “every Wednesday night” residency at Green Street Station that lasted for well over a year, we had worked our way up to weekends at The Channel  and Chet’s Last Call and were performing 3 to 4 sets of our own written material as well as being able to play hours of cover material.

Petro’s basement brought us together as a group but the Pixie Theater made us a BAND.  We weren't an isolated entity; we were sharing a space with our peers, hearing what others were doing, seeing them perform and the spirit of competition and admiration brought out the best in everybody. We now had to make a new home somehow.

As we approached the 1990s, many things began to change for the Boston music scene and for us as people. Some legendary clubs never made it to the new decade and for which there was no replacement. The Boston original scene starting to fade and the players and participants began to move on to other things since you only have a certain window in your life to pursue your rock & roll dreams.

And even though we all continue to write, play and perform, other things in life begin to take precedent. Change is the way of all things but our love for the Pixie and those times we had there never will. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Zuckerberg Throws $100 Mil Down a Newark New Jersey Sewer

Perhaps proving once and for all that rich people aren’t all that much smarter than most people, just luckier, Facebook founder/absconder/beneficiary Mark Zuckerberg was so na├»ve to think the Newark New Jersey school system could change just because he shows up and throws $100 Million dollars at it. I wish he had given me a call first. This is a classic head shaker.

The New Jersey teachers union only saw office make-overs, 10% annual raises and junkets to the Caribbean and not new school text books, fixed heating and ventilation systems and innovative teaching methods. I’ll bet they thought it was Christmas even though it’s possible they tried to ban that from the school curriculum.  So somehow, and I’m sure it was a tough job, the Newark schools managed to piss through most of the 100 large before anyone who cared noticed. Now , surprise, there is no will to root out the culprits, as if they’d ever turn themselves in, and Mr. “I’ve got my ideals” is left to ponder how he managed to get snookered. But I’m sure he wrote it off on his taxes so no worries there.

So now it’s clear. The problem with the Newark, NJ school system is just a microcosm of what is wrong with most of the public school systems in every major city in the country: Too much Federal Government, too many Union Bureaucrats and too much Tenure. 

It certainly isn't money. The money spent per pupil, many a study has shown, has no correlation to the success of the students. It’s the involvement of the teachers and the community. City schools are notorious for not listening to the parents since the teachers and the administrators are untouchable. Most can’t be fired. Witness New York City's “Rubber Rooms” where bad teachers, stupid teachers and sometimes even criminal teachers are put to wait out a “cooling off” period, with full pay, until the heat dies down and they can be re-assigned to another school.

No accountability means no change. The only people who are stuck going to these inner-city schools are poor people with jobs or welfare recipients who can’t move or it would jeopardize their government support payments. In other words; people without a culture of success. Everyone who knows better has moved on.

And here is where the “segregation” that Michelle Obama and the Political Left are trying to seize upon as a new race issue is prevalent.

How can it be that 60 years after the Brown vs. The Board of Education verdict, the nation’s schools are still considered segregated?  Where the previous instance of segregation that prompted the original Brown decision was because of the schools systems purposely separating the school children by race, the schools issues today is that they are self-segregating. 

The schools have gotten so bad because of their rigid nature, failure to adapt and just out-right not caring because the teacher’s union answers to NO ONE that if people have to pay twice to leave, they will and they HAVE.  In many instances parents who own a home in a failed school district for which their property taxes go to support will also bite the bullet and pay the tuition for a private school. Since the government did away with the voucher system, where taxpayers receive a voucher for the money they paid in property taxes to be used for ANY school they want to send their kids, only the people who can't pay twice are hurt, the working poor. People are voting by the only means left to them when faced with an unmovable object…THEY move. Parents will take the 2nd job or will move or rent an apartment in a "good school" town even if it means a longer drive to work. 

I have a friend whose daughter is in the Fall River, Massachusetts school system. She can’t get a grade changed on the girl’s transcript even though the teacher has said it’s wrong. She is on her third appointment with the head administrator of the high school to see if anything can be done since you can’t just walk in and see anybody at the high school. It's appointment only. This is time spent away from work, she has to work on their schedule and lord knows you can't get anybody on the phone. Imagine if this were a bigger problem. 

I think it's time for her to consider moving. 

Christie Talks Out His Ass at Jewish Fundraiser

The heavy-set man who would be president, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was heard spouting the same old tired and meaningless platitudes to a group of reportedly "deep-pocketed" Jewish donors or as they call them in New Jersey, “Marks” about how “American Must Lead” and how the United States should have “A more aggressive foreign policy” which I take to mean “more warfare!”

To quote the governor:  “The rest of the world watches and hopes that America will take care of their competition and do their dirty work for them instead of they themselves actually taking responsibility and sitting down to negotiating an equitable solution. On this kind of bully Imperialism America must lead!”

What does any of this mean?

Mr. Christie is out advertising the fact that he and the United States military can be bought for CHEAP and he isn't even in charge. On his president aspirations, Governor Christie remains on the fence about whether he’ll actually run for president. He reportedly said: “"I'm being governor for the next nine months. To be real honest with you I don't know what I'm gonna do after that."

The standout word there is “honestly”. He “honestly” doesn't know what he’s going to do ladies and gentlemen of the Jewish donors fundraiser he was speaking at. You know, I believe him.

Christie also called for the United States to be a “Moral Leader” in the world and to promote “American Values”. And just what are these American Values these days? Perhaps he will champion the American Ideals that the Jews and Muslims sit down together and negotiate "like good Christians". That'll help. 

Short of specifics and long on buzz-words Mr. Christie's speech writers undoubtedly killed themselves to include, the governors “speech” was just a lot of hot air and undeliverable platitudes. AS IF the American people are going to go for more of the same war mongering just because a Republican MIGHT gain the Whitehouse. I don’t think so.

But where is the truth to this guy? Where is the sincerity? He can't even fake that. Spouting “Republican Values” means NOTHING these days and that Christie is courting the established Republican Party rather than the grass roots Tea Party, who will never go away as long as they are getting continuously robbed by the government, only proves that he, again, has chosen poorly.

Mr. Christie is still fishing for clues to his viability as a presidential candidate. If he "Polls” right, he’ll jump into the ring. If not, he’ll run for governor again. It is this timidity and the fear of losing his other “job” that really sinks this guy for me. He’s as wishy-washy as Mitt Romney but without the overall likability.

 So while Christie is “standing long and hard for those things that we believe in” whatever the hell that means, he will dance for the coins these Jewish donors may throw at him. Is this any way to run a presidential campaign? Is Jeb Bush really that much of a threat?

There has been talk that what would have been money in Christie’s pocket will be going to Jeb Bush but Mr. Bush, or Bush the Turd, I mean Third, will just be the candidate to stay home for on election day. 

If there is any more evidence that the American people need about the rise of the Corporate State and a victory for the National Chamber of Commerce, it would be Jeb Bush becoming President of the United States. That would surely trumpet that the fix is in and that no matter what anybody does, the big corporations run the country. They already do but at least then we would all KNOW it.

So dance, Mr. Christie, dance. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Vote Has Been Undermined

The people who support the Political Left in this country don’t seem to care that their future is becoming “less than bright” under their incumbency. All they really care about is keeping control. If that takes the corrupting of the voting process so be it!

By trying to legitimize illegal aliens so that they can become legal voters, by fighting the logical voter ID laws implemented by individual states and by allowing “Motor Voter” and “Same Day Voting Registration” and by using the power of the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative and Tea Party groups to deny them access to legal fund-raising activities, the Obama Administration seeks to consolidate power at the national level and to dictate national mandates over the Constitutionally protected sovereignty of the individual states and the citizens of the United States.

The National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), also known as “motor voter,” promotes easy voter registration at motor vehicle, welfare and other state and local government offices. Voters can apply in person or by mail, and, until recently, the federal application required no proof of citizenship. So while you are getting your illegal license to drive, you can also register to vote. This was a bad idea from the very beginning inviting fraud at the registration level.

Fighting Voter ID Laws

Even when a state passes a Voter ID law that offers registered voters ID cards FOR FREE, a federal judge invariably strikes the law down on the grounds that it discriminates against minorities. Even when everything is provided for without cost, these laws cannot be allowed to stand since the status quo of the governments organized fraud must be maintained.

Buying the Vote

By expanding the welfare and food stamp rolls and essentially making it circumstances where people need the assistance happen, people will be more likely to vote for their “supper”. The Mayor of Boston always knew where his voting block lived: The Projects. This is why the incumbent Mayor would make sure that there were vans available to drive registered voters to the polls on Election Day. This is why winning the race for Mayor in Boston is a job for life.

Enter the IRS

It is now clear that the President’s administration personally ordered the targeting of Conservative and Tea Party groups applying for non-tax status to be denied and delayed the granting of their legal rights so as to keep them from making a difference in the last presidential election. The steps that were taken to implement and then later to divert attention to them were both blatant and criminal. Also IRS employees openly campaigned for the re-election of President Obama while at work and used IRS (taxpayer) resources to do so. This is also criminal behavior. But will anyone even lose their job over it?

Amnesty the Death Knell

This will essentially just legitimizing the on-going voter fraud organized by the Obama election machine anyway since it isn’t like they haven’t been voting right along aided and abetted by their local governments especially in California, an important state because of its majority of Electoral College votes. What we will ultimately get if this happens is our new “Citizens” will have all of the rights and none of the responsibilities of citizenship. They will get to vote but they won’t want to register to pay local, state or federal taxes and will most likely continue to live outside of the mainstream for this purpose since, rightly, who in their right mind would want to sign up to pay taxes? They currently have the best of both worlds. They have jobs, benefits by way of their taxpayer funded community services and pay nothing into the system. What could possibly go wrong there?

Students Vote for their Own Demise

The voting laws for students are quite interesting. Even if you are from out-of-state, you, as a student, can vote in the state you attend college. The youngest voters are usually the most liberal and driven by ideology. That in itself is not a bad thing but because they need no legal residency to vote in the state they go to school in, they are a valuable voting block for the Left in states, like New Hampshire, that usually vote Conservative.

New Hampshire also has Same Day Voting Registration which allows a person to register to vote, and then vote on the same day. This is a really controversial law since it has been reported that large numbers of voters who registered the same day could not be found later when sought to verify their residency.

Government studies say that voter fraud is minimal. Independent and opposition studies declare that voter fraud is rampant. As bad as Obama has been during his first four years, he could conceivably have been re-elected based on his rabid cult of Personality with his devout followers but it seems he still had plenty of help from the government agencies under his direct control and his political machine that sought to exploit every loop-hole and friendly law at their disposal.

But what did they win?

The dwindling resources and opportunities have left our liberal voting students with only jobs at “Pizza 2 Go!” Few recent graduates are doing the jobs they went to school for and they are still responsible for their often staggering student debt. A vote for Obama is a vote for Prosperity? Not so much. 

The cost of the Affordable Care Act has without a shadow of a doubt kept companies from hiring people. Without the expansion of enterprise, people don't move up. If people don’t move up, not only will there be no room to get into a company, these people won’t be buying a bigger house or a nicer automobile. This effects the recent college grads the most since an economy that crawls offers them few opportunities.

When times like these happen, people tend not to move. They will stay in their crumby job because a “bird in hand” is better than the prospect of not working out someplace else or not having the seniority in the event that their new job has a lay-off. They won’t make big ticket purchases out of fear and make do with what they have and many have put off retirement. This all adds up to less jobs for today’s college graduate.

The welfare people are still poor but comfortably so and will be reluctant to get off of that gravy train for fear they can’t make it in the real world and they’d probably be right so they stay. This is the life, right?

When the cities eventually have to file for bankruptcy, all union and state employee contracts become null and void. The cities and towns are currently trying to stave off such a result by ratcheting up property tax rates everywhere but eventually people will be either run out of town or revolt. Then what?

Even publicly funded groups like National Public Radio are feeling the pinch. There is less government money in their budget and less private donations coming in. Nobody escapes. 

The Political Left has won a world of SHIT because even though they clearly know what would work to bring the economy back, they would rather control a dung heap than live in a good economy under a different leadership.  

This is the nation they prefer, do you? 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Providence Rock & Roll Clubs: 1979 to 1984

My friends and I started going to Rock & Roll clubs at a time when you only had to LOOK 18 to get into a club in either Boston or Providence, Rhode Island. Most of the time, if you were tall, nobody at the door flinched when you came to pay the cover. Neither I nor my friends were ever "carded" going into a Providence club. But my first experiences in the Rock & Roll clubs in Providence had provided a lasting taste for live original rock music at the ground level and would deeply influence my life going forward. This is where I had first caught the sickness.

At the time, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel and The Living Room were popular Providence clubs and were located practically across the street from each other in what passed for the Red Light district which was pretty much around the corner from the Providence Civic Center (Now the Dunkin Donuts Center). They both had their own sound systems and featured original rock & roll bands exclusively, having usually three bands play each evening. You could literally stand in the middle of the street and hear bands from both places playing and from that you could determine which place you'd rather go into first.

The main difference between the two clubs, from our perspective, was that Lupo’s served their beer in plastic cups and pitchers and The Living Room had regular bottled beer but not the bar bottles, they sold the bottles anyone could buy at the "Packie" or "Package Store" as we call beer stores here in the formerly industrialized North-East. That meant you could sneak in beers in your socks and just pull 'em out and nobody would be the wiser. We would do this after drinking a few in the parking lot before we went in for good measure. If the bouncers at Lupo's caught you with a bottle, they threw you out immediately so if you were on a "budget" you had to drink your fill in the parking lot before you went in. Haven't done THAT in a while. Must be a sign of adulthood.


The section of downtown Providence where these clubs were located featured high 5 to 6 story mostly brownstone buildings built at the turn of the last century, narrow streets and although there were working street lights, the light never quite seemed to reach the sidewalks somehow. Housed in these buildings there were a variety of peep shows, flop houses, nude dancing establishments and "dirty book" stores. It was always a dark area at night which afforded privacy when shooting beers in the parking lot but also, in retrospect, was also a good place for a murder. Not that anything that extreme ever happened while I was there.

The old Living Room was basically just a store front, much smaller than Lupo’s, and had a couch and a couple of stuffed chairs but mostly you just stood to watch the band. The band stand, which was a little higher than the floor, was on your left as you came in the door so you were right up with the band which was pretty good. Lupo’s, on the other hand, had a much higher raised stage, at least 5 feet, and a balcony section and was a good place to see a band from anywhere in the room. Of the two, Lupo's hosted the bigger, more popular bands.

The first band I ever saw at a club was at Lupo’s. The band was from Boston and they were called Shane Champagne after band founders Gary Shane and David Champagne. They were as professional an outfit as you'll ever see in a club and they all came out with their heads all moving in time to the songs and they were polished as hell. That was also the first time I saw a guy playing bass up close with his fingers and that was SO cool. They also played their hit song “Shadow World” which I recognized from the radio and which remains a great reggae tune. I went out and bought my first electric bass shortly after this show and the bass became my first love.

It was also at Lupo’s that I first saw perhaps the best band out of Rhode Island in those days, The Schemers, play their big hit “I Want Some Fun” years before they went on to win Boston’s Rock & Roll Rumble in 1984, beating out Boston Reggae/Ska band Dub 7 in the final. I was there for that too and they played a great set. Also saw The Hi-Beams who were Rumble runner ups the year before the Schemers took the contest.

The Living Room had some lesser known but still viable acts. One standout group was Rubber Rodeo which put out an EP titled “The Girl He Left Behind” which features a couple of cool covers: “Jolene” and the theme from the old spaghetti western movie featuring Clint Eastwood, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” They were a six piece band lead by brothers Bob and Barc Holmes and their girl singer, Trish Milliken was very good. Unfortunately their writing wasn't that strong. But they put on a good show and I occasionally put the EP on the turntable and it still sounds good. I remember they would dress all Country Western and pass out these toys called "Whistling Lariats" that you twirl and they...well they whistle. Yes, it was corny but I always liked it when bands did something more than just stand there and play. I mean, SAY a few syllables, let me know who you are. Rubber Rodeo did this very well.  

Saw one of Johnny Thunders gigs, if you can call it that, at Lupo’s. I didn't even know who the fuck Johnny Thunders was at the time and when he finally staggered out on stage as the headliner, a weird floppy hat on his head and a fender Telecaster in his hands, his backup group for the night was The Daughters I was told and he wandered from one end of the stage and back while the band played “Louie Louie” not seeming to know where the hell he was or why. I was referring to him as “Johnny No-Mind” when talking to my friends about it. Only later did someone I mentioned the show to inform me that he was a founding member of The New York Dolls.

By early 1991 Johnny Thunders was dead at 38 years old and after what I witnessed that night I don't know how he managed to hold on as long as that. Just goes to show, Rock and Roll can get you pretty fucked up. But I suppose growing up in New York City; he was probably already pretty fucked up before he found Rock and Roll.

Turns out that Lupo’s was a pretty rough place sometimes and there was a reason they served beer in plastic. One night when Shane Champagne was just getting into their headlining set, the room suddenly filled up with leather jackets, like a HUNDRED leather jackets and they were hollering, swearing, elbowing and throwing full cups of beer everywhere but mostly at the band. At one point, and I’ll never forget it, Gary Shane had had enough of that shit and he takes off his guitar, a Fender Telecaster, and holding it up over his head like an axe with one hand, leans over the edge of the stage pointing to the guy with the other and is about to bash him in the head. I can still see the guy putting his hands up saying "Wait, wait"…

And then we were out in the street. We just ran out of there with our drinks still in our hands. Years later when I got to play some gigs with Gary who had local hits with his next band Gary Shane & The Detour,  most notibly "The War Between Man & Machine", I asked him about that night and he doesn't remember a thing about it. He did however, autograph my 9 "Shane Champagne EP. When I took up the electric guitar years later, inspired by Gary's adept display of finess with the instrument, I also bought a Fender Telecaster for the same reason. The American Standard Telecaster is a good piece of wood that stays in tune after you have had to use it for a "drunk shield". The foreign made ones aren't nearly as solidly build.

There was another band that played both Lupo’s and The Living Room lot it seemed. Lou Miami and the Cosmetics were a “quirky” group and there was always something odd about “Lou” I thought until someone pointed out that he had shaved off his eyebrows. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but yeah, that was it. I can’t remember being impressed but I wasn't repulsed either and those guys seemed to be playing there pretty regularly.

By 1985 we had moved onto the Boston scene and didn't get back to Providence nearly as much. Eventually both places closed like most rock clubs do, suddenly, and the spot where the old Living Room was became the corner of a big ol’ tall office building. The owners later took over another struggling Providence rock club called The Center Stage and made THAT The Living Room for a while and that held out for a year or two afterwards but also closed.

The drinking age had started to go up incrementally to 21 years old in Massachusetts and the state of Rhode Island followed about a year later and the rock scene of “the old days” began to fade. It not only hurt the music business but I think the younger people missed out on a lot of cool music because 18 to 21 are the best “going out to see bands” years since many are still students and even if you were working you could burn the candle at both ends without feeling the effects as you do later. You had to be “cool” at a much younger age or somebody would settle you out in a hurry. By 21 you’re just onto other things and you don’t know what you’re missing and before you know it, you're dancing to a cover band playing "Mustang Sally" in some suburb joint thinking THAT is where it's at. It's sad really.

Lupo’s, after a few location changes, lives on as a concert club still in Providence catering now more to national touring original and tribute acts but occasionally having local original bands. It’s not the room it used to be but I’ve seen a few bands there and there’s a lot to be said about seeing original live music anywhere you can find it.

So if you are looking for something to do. Go See a Band!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

North Korea Has the World’s Freshest Air

How could it not? The country is practically free of industry. It has the world’s fewest power plants, the fewest factories, the fewest incandescent light bulbs and the fewest automobiles. The satellite pictures don’t lie, in the evening North Korea is shrouded in darkness with the exception of the capital city, Pyongyang.

North Korea must be an environmentalist’s wet dream. It is the ultimate conclusion of the Green Agenda. Fewer people consuming few resources. There is less trash, less waste and less carbon emissions. No big carbon foot prints here, in fact they’re in the negative. In North Korea there is less of everything for everybody!

I’ll bet there are streams in North Korea that run totally untouched by human development and forests undisturbed by the lumber industry and condo and golf course developers. I’m sure much of the place has remained as it was for centuries. How beautiful those forested hills must be.

I’ll bet there are plenty of vitamins and nutrients in the soil as the North Korean peasants prepare “mud balls” to eat in a modern era version of the epic film “The Good Earth”. I bet the poor farmers get to see the soil yield sumptuous vegetables just before they are confiscated by the army and sent to the capital city. I’m sure the animals run free. I’ll bet there are Spotted Owls, Piping Plovers and normally endangered Timber Wolves just roaming around undisturbed by the machinations of dirty, filthy civilization.

Yes, North Korea is the ultimate state for nature preservation and I’m sure all the residents are proud of it and wouldn't want it any other way. 

That’s the real reason why they are so secretive and have high walls and military guards on the border, so people don’t find out how much of a green paradise it is and try to break in and ruin the party.

 We should study how they do it in North Korea, perhaps we can emulate them.

Monday, May 5, 2014

U.S. Arms for al Qaeda But Not For Ukraine

With revelations that the Obama White House armed al Qaeda militants in Libya in its ultimately successful attempt to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi it is fascinating just how many Muslim extremist groups the U.S. government has supplied with arms thus fueling their insurgency and dogged attempts to overthrow the governments of Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
The U.S. is the largest arms dealer in the world. So far ahead of number two Russia, we sell almost twice as many armaments around the world as they do. It's a safe bet that we remain the largest supplier of arms to the Middle East, outpacing Russia and China combined.
And what are these arms mostly used for?

Why the overthrow of foreign governments of course and all the misery and chaos that goes with it. The U.S. has backed every major Muslim offensive with guns and ammo for the last ten years. We supply the al Qaeda “Freedom Fighters” in Syria for example. You know the people who are systematically and brutally killing and running Christians out of the country? Yes, THOSE people.

Our new al Qaeda friends in Libya also needed guns and we were more than happy to help out. Of course there was that little problem with al Qaeda attacking the U.S. consulate and killing Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith with their U.S. supplied mortars and AK-47s but that’s all just part of the larger business of changing the destinies of sovereign states. What's next on the crazy list, arming the Mexican drug cartels? Oh wait, never mind, thanks to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, we've done that too!

As we have seen, if you have a group that wants to take over a country in the hopes of establishing a religious state, then call the United States. 

Oh, except for Israel. The U.S. government only wishes to back Muslim nation building, thank you very much.
BUT, if you want to secure your fledgling democratic nation from overthrow by a powerful and aggressive neighbor, well, you are on your own, no guns for you!

And the ironic thing about that is that the U.S. actually HAS a defense treaty with Ukraine. I guess that wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. Sorry Ukraine, I guess there just wasn't enough "Political Will" to justify sending arms to help you all defend yourselves. 

The United States also has a defense treaty with Japan.
Japan should start to take an interest in its own defense and make it sooner than later. If actions in Ukraine haven't proven that nations shouldn't depend solely upon the United States for their protection, then I don't know what other motivation it will take. How about Chinese gun boats in Tokyo Harbor? The sooner Japan can get their hands on a big load of missiles, the better. All that sheltered living, the Hikiomori, the sekkusu shinai shokogun, the highly taxed stagnant economy, the relegation of women in Japaneses society, all that crazy shit better get solved in a hurry because the new bully on the block senses weakness and this isn't a Gundam video game.
So what can we conclude from U.S. actions overseas?

Extremist Muslim insurgency: All for it!
Ukrainian Nationalists and the free Japanese Democratic nation: Not so much.
It is this strategic “giveth and taketh away” arms policy the U.S. uses to continually tip the balances of power in the favor of U.S. business interests. You play our way and we don’t upset your apple cart, right Muammar?
Oh that’s right, he can’t hear me ‘cause he’s DEAD.

With the United States vowing to be on your side your safety is thus assured. 
Pleasant dreams.