Friday, October 24, 2008

TVOTR Part Three: Biffed...

The Brooklyn Masonic Temple was dumpy. In the back of my mind I was expecting something that at least compared to Detroit's Masonic Temple but what we got was more along the lines of my high school cafeteria except with dirtier bathrooms.

The long banquet tables, plastic chairs, the low-cycle hum of fluorescent lights, linoleum floor tiles and 45rpm jukebox made me crave an order of cheese fries with pepper, want to play a game of intramural basketball, worry about copying someone's answers for geometry and generally just complain about how bored I am.

The surrounding neighborhood failed to provide much stimulation as well. My time in a deli proudly advertising their Boar's Head meats was punctuated by little school children arguing the redeeming qualities of 50 Cent, one of whom apparently had worked with Fiddy in a film. The only comment I remember hearing was said child, all of ten years old, describing 50 Cent as "mad nice" and a more brilliant juxtaposition of adjectives I could not create.

The show was decent. Ended the set by screaming "Brooklyn!" into the mic ad infinitum. Saw John Norris in the crowd.

Spent most of the next day sitting on my ass and not doing a damn thing. Took a car service from Brooklyn to Ground Zero then the PATH train to Hoboken followed by a cab ride to Maxwell's. The biggest news of note was that we got the parking spot right outside the door to the club and of all the times we've played there this has never happened. We were excited and certainly thought it'd be a sign of good things to come.

Unfortunately, this would be our third time playing Maxwell's in 2008 and our fourth time in the span of a year. Such circumstances do not bode well for a Wednesday night turnout on the same evening of a contested presidential debate. Suddenly our standard door deal at Maxwell's, (which usually proves quite lucrative) was not looking so hot.

The room wasn't empty, just a tad sparse. In hopes of changing things up we tried to open with "Sherlock Holmes" but Mick was in the wrong key and we actually had to abort the venture mid-song. There were other bummers too…specifically trying to NOT do the set in the order that we know it proved confusing. Thankfully, the crowd stuck with us and by the end of the set I feel we at least pulled out something "passable" (like brief riffing on Spacemen 3's "Take Me to The Other Side) to their liking while it was still one of our worst shows in quite some time.

Crashed on a pal's bed at the Bowery Hotel that night and rocked some awesome rigatoni at Gemma downstairs for breakfast the next morning. A quick trip up the street to John Varvatos' store in the old CBGB's space not only found criminally overpriced used Brook's leather jackets at $500 a pop, but a copy of one of the Seger Liberation Army 7"s and a framed, silk-screened poster for the Dirtbombs show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles from May of this year. I was confused but pleased by its presence.

Up to St. Mark's and into Rockit Scientist where I picked up the LP reissue of Rodriguez' Cold Fact (I merely needed the bonus 7" contained within), the Shim Sham Shimmy blues comp, volume one of the Mad Mike series on Norton and the latest LP from Your 33 Black Angels. God I love that record store.

Back to Hoboken to load out of Maxwell's, to Brooklyn in decent time, load-in and soundcheck painless. I play good Indiana Jones pinball and for once ignore the photo booth.

Walk up the street to a corner store to pick up a Skor bar where the shopkeep and a customer are in deep conversation on whether or not they like their jobs. One of them argued that a job, by definition, has to be unenjoyable. At that point, they both turn to me and ask what my job is.

I fumble for words and don't know what to say. After brief consideration, I offer up that I am a musician and that I'm currently traveling. The customer asks where I'm from and I say Detroit. She lights up and asks where and I reply East Side. Her eyes grow wider and as she asks for more specific coordinates I tell her Mack and Cadieux area. She smiles brightly and responds with Mack and Buckingham, locations no more than a half-mile from each other.

She was in Brooklyn as a professional dancer but had just started a dance company in Detroit called Come Back City Dance. We sat inside the store for about 5 minutes discussing all the challenges and heartbreaks of living in Detroit. It's moments like this, where the world genuinely feels a little bit smaller, that brighten the day.

Waited forever for friends to pick me up for dinner. By the time we arrived at Petite Crevette we had approximately thirty minutes before I needed to be back at the Southpaw and it would take at least 10 minutes to drive back.

While I don't like hurrying to eat and certainly don't like chowing too soon before we hit the stage, the small eating area (the entire place seats twelve), hand-written menu on butcher paper, pictures of Kennedys Edward and Caroline and numerous culinary awards lining the wall made me throw caution to the wind.

The ten dollar cheeseburger was tasty. I wish I would have had patience enough to order a soup as well, but I didn't want the rest of the band sitting on stage looking at their watches wondering where in the hell I was. Apparently their seafood is exquisite, I will just have to venture again.

Luckily, we got back to the club while the Nouvellas were still on and I had a moment to catch my breath, digest my food and just get generally situated. I was handed a bag of vintage t-shirts before we went on from good friend Richard of Metropolis Vintage in Manhattan. A Mark Fidrych t-shirt, one that says "Hamtramck" with the Polish eagle on it and individual iron-on letters spelling "Candy Ass" were three fitting (in both senses of the word) garments that will be welcome additions to the collection.

We played well, if a little fast for most of the set. I was told afterward that Maeby from "Arrested Development" was spotted in the crowd, so that was a bonus.

For your downloading enjoyment, here's our version of "Start the Party" from the Southpaw that evening.

Start the Party - Live in Brooklyn

The Beachland complex in Cleveland is like home. From the tavern that feels like every single post-softball dive my father dragged us to in the Eighties, to the faux-wood paneled basement that feels like every rec room I ever fought tooth and nail in heartbreaking competitions of Nintendo's "RBI Baseball", the whole place is quintessentially Midwest in the most comforting of ways. The old Ukranian social hall of a ballroom and the vintage store in the basement make it one of our favorite stops in the nation.

Did I mention the record store Music Saves next door? Record vendors near to the club are always a welcome way to spend time. I went through damn-near everything in the store and bought Dungen 4, Indian Jewelry's Free Gold and the latest 7" from Times New Viking on Matador, not oblivious to the fact that their previous 7" on Matador is still sitting in my "to listen-to" pile back in Detroit.

I didn't watch the openers. During our encore I grabbed the mic and started riffing. I decided to tell jokes the soundman at the Southpaw had told me. The first of which as follows:

Q: What's the difference between Sarah Palin's mouth and her vagina?
A: What comes out of her vagina is only SOMETIMES retarded.

Seemed like the joke got a mixed reaction, to which I replied "Too soon?"
Around this time I began to hear someone in the crowd yelling "FUCK YOU!" repeatedly, as in, not stopping, constant, without end. I would later be told by the soundman that said dude was yelling "FUCK YOU!" throughout our entire set.

I respond with a quick "Fuck you too, buddy" and when he failed to stop, I walked up to him and put the mic in his face where he said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Fuck you! No politics, go play…" before I open-handedly shoved his face away from the mic.

I immediately regretted doing it, but got back on the mic and told him no one was making him stay and that if he didn't like what I was saying he was free to go and even told the club to give him his money back. I then went on to say that it was because of douchedicks (copyright pending) like that guy that Ohio ended up going to W in 2004. I said "Just because my last name is Blackwell, don't blame me…I'm not related to that Ken guy anyway."

Afterwards at the bar and one bartender, proud of what I'd done, said I could have whatever I wanted (and with no beer backstage, I just needed a Corona for Pantano at the merch table) where another wanted to get the story of what happened straight from me. I relayed to her what went down and she then said that some girl was claiming I punched her in the face. Where the fuck did that come from? She said the girl then changed her story and said that I had elbowed her in the face. As I remember it, NEITHER of these happened, but the bartendress later said she was able to get the girl to admit that, had anything actually occurred that it was most certainly an accident.

"Except, you know, when you biffed that guy" she ended. I'd never heard the word "biffed" before, know not its etymology, but deeply hope that it has something to do with Back to the Future.

In the future (and as I've done in the past) I need to remember that when confronted with an asshole the best response is to give the person a hug. So if Mr. "Fuck You" is reading this, please accept my apology and understand that I owe you a loving embrace.


Anonymous said...

Ugh, Ben, I'm a big fan of yours but I cringed when I read this post. Hate speech (that joke is NOT political humor, nor are the jokes about putting Obama's face on foodstamps) carries limited protection in this country but you can't expect people to not react strongly when they hear it. If you give a dance, you gotta pay the band. I've been reading your tour diaries for quite some time and never suspected you to be a Biff, just the opposite in fact. But alas, alack...

Anonymous said...

the joke is far from hate speech, a little crass maybe - hateful no

Anonymous said...

you have obviously never played 'mushroom-biff-slap'?
such a shame.

Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

If the root of the word "biffed" were in fact the Back To The Future villain, I would guess that it would have to have more to do with manure.

Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

Pick six: A half-dozen cool things in music: "The Dirtbombs at First Ave, last Monday. Opening for TV on the Radio, this hard-boogieing Detroit garage band had a classic Motor City sound but a clever approach, with two dueling drummers, one of whom told the most tasteless Sarah Palin joke to date."

Anonymous said...

biffed, a Cleveland colloquialism.
Isn't screaming fuck you sorta kinda hate speech?
The benefit of free speech does not involve censorship of someone you don't agree with.
At least you tried some standup ben, it's tough out there. Don't regret anything, as long as you vote, you can voice your opinion.

Anonymous said...

sorry ben, you cant claim douche dick as your own invention:
douche dick

Anonymous said...

Ouch...big fan of blog but incredibly insulted by joke. I've read much vulgarity in your writing; and dismiss it for various reasons (usually b/c some redeeming comment surfaces later), but this was shockingly insensitive.

Elvez said...

" Anonymous said...

Ouch...big fan of blog but incredibly insulted by joke. I've read much vulgarity in your writing; and dismiss it for various reasons (usually b/c some redeeming comment surfaces later), but this was shockingly insensitive. "

-What a fag!

Anonymous said...

I see the audience dude as the free speech champion. But I'm a bleeding heart. Black jokes offend some of us white people too you know. Your joke was no less bigotted. Bravo McFly.

Anonymous said...

it's funny .... cause it's true !!!

Anonymous said...

i smell a dirtbombs comedy album ????????

Dirtbomb's comedy gold said...

Q:How come the Dirtbombs couldn't start their van last night?

A:Because Mick couldn't see he was using the wrong key.

Anonymous said...

"Tales of My Pop-Rock Love Life" is great! do you like it?

first-time reader, first-time commenter. like the blog! thanks!

flying elvis said...

"A Mark Fidrych t-shirt, one that says "Hamtramck" with the Polish eagle on it and individual iron-on letters spelling "Candy Ass" were three fitting (in both senses of the word) "

was one sense of the word having to do with the stripes?


"puphorso" was the word i had to type this time. lol.