OBLIVIAN OR BUST: OBLIVIANS REUNION ROAD TRIP DIARY

By Max Dropout

[audio:http://www.youbettershutupandlisten.com/mp3s/oblivians-motorcycle_leather_boy.mp3]

“…I’m so glad to find you all still up and partying, goddamnit. I was hanging out with these guys, and they did a bunch of speed and fell asleep at 6am. They had Dead Moon Tattoos. I thought they’d be cool.”
-Chris Owen, of Killer’s Kiss

For at least two months prior to that date in Memphis, the question on everyone’s lips was, “Are you going?” Continually, I was greeted with the query. Surely, on this year’s Halloween, no other place would exist but Memphis; when Greg Cartwright, Eric Friedhl, and Jack Yarber took the stage of the Hi-Tone it would go down in the minds of real rock n’ roll fans as one of those historical dates you just had to see. After several catastrophic events, including a bout of near-homelessness and a change of residences, I managed to secure enough money, a ride, and two tickets just days before Halloween. Make no mistake about it. I would have knifed my pregnant mother to get there. No amount of disaster or harpie-squelching about being a grown up with “real life” responsibilities and priorites was going to fucking detour me. I was going… and so I, stowed along with a handful of other Austinites, made the pilgrimage to Memphis, leaving late Thursday afternoon and arriving at our destination that same night. While the Oblivians may have been the initial draw, there was still a ton of stuff going on that weekend, which culminated in a bizarre national garage punk convention, as the seamier elements from metropolitan points all over the U.S. map converged upon one hot spot. The following account has been extracted from my inebriated notebook entries, which were scrawled over the course of the weekend.

THE DEPARTURE
Thursday Morning, October 30th

Neurosis prevails, and I wake at that sinister morning hour that makes your stomach churn; I’m up to check and recheck my details and personal properties before I leave, just to make sure I don’t leave any personal documentation I may need to get into the venue behind. I laid in bed the previous night, tossing and turning, with waking nightmares playing through my skull, where I get to the Hi-Tone prior to the Oblivians show only to be declined because I forgot to bring my birth certificate and a urine sample. Talking to the personel at the venue, they’d initially told me I needed TN state ID to even get in, but that proved to be an exaggeration cleared up by the venue’s booker.

I triple-check my unmentionables, the batteries in my discman, my ticket confirmation numbers, and fifty whole bucks for leisure spending before I felt some ease.

Far from the bear-trap clockwork precision of that New Yorker punctuality I still maintain, people in Austin are perpetually late. Nothing ever starts on time, and nobody shows up when they’re supposed to. My ride was supposed to show up between 11 am and 12 pm, while our departure was scheduled for between 1 and 2 pm. At around 1:00 pm, they finally show up, and we don’t get rolling til after three.

BLACK JESUS WAS OUR CO-PILOT
Thursday Evening, October 30th
My mind is a total blank. This is just one of several times I’ve made this drive this year. It now runs together like one of those obscenely economical Hannah Barbera backgrounds, where Scooby is running from the chocolate phantom or some shit, and you see them pass the same grandfather clock, door, and book case several dozen times. The hypnotic repetition of Whattaburgers, Wal-marts, and strip club billboards is draining.

For the first quarter of the ride, Patsy Cline blasts over the speakers while I listen to Slayer’s Reign In Blood on my headphones. The bass on “Angel of Death” and its widdly guitar solos drown out Patsy’s accompanying band, while her powerful vocals lilt over them audibly. Strangely, Patsy’s mournful crow suits the sinister uber-Sabbath powerhouse metal combo’s style.

Since women have bladders the size of a balled-up square of toilet paper, we make at least eighty bathroom stops before we even see another state. At one of these stops, we find a plastic statue of Jesus, which co-hort Penny wields like some bizarre mouthpiece, speaking through the doll over the course of the trip. I’m stowed in the back of the van, and the wind tunnel effect from the open windows of the smoking section up front cuts me off from pungent gossip and anecdote-bedlam, but I can see Penny wave the Jesus antagonistically at cars as they pass; eventually, someone finds a sharpie and defaces our saviour. Over the course of our stay in Memphis, Pen whips the Jesus out sporadically and waves it in people’s faces, screaming, “SHIT WHAT YOU TALKIN ‘BOUT NUGGGGA!?”

“THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT…”
Friday, October 31st

Sometime after midnight, we’re in Tennessee. I decide to blow a little money on some beer with Alyse for our hotel room christening. The girls, with dye jobs and punk rock flair a-blazin’, mill around the mini-mart after gassing up the van. We’re the only crackers in the joint, and as Penny passes one of the patrons the whites of his eyes practically swell over their lids. He remarks, “They only come out at night, right?” Guess that makes us the brand new darkies.

OUR OWN PRIVATE GRACELAND
Early Friday Morning, October 31st

Prior to checking in, we cruise the parking lot looking for familiar makes and bumper stickers, and we know we’re not alone here. Our ten-hour drive sets in, and once we stretch out and get some beer in us, any plan we had to find a party diminishes peacefully, and we commence to getting wasted while watching “Highlander 3: The Final Dimension,” starring the incomparable Mario Van Peebles.

Alyse manages to keep up with my drinking, surprisingly, and wins major cool points. We talk about a lot of shit, but most of what was said is now a total haze. Everyone eventually crashes, but not before the sun comes up. I pile onto the floor between the beds, while watching the Powerpuff Girls, and Alyse sets the alarm.

ENTER THE “TALKATRON”
Thursday, October 30th

One of the perks of the trip was running into a virtual parade of like-minded individuals, many of whom I have kept in contact with after leaving. Clark Mosher and Chris Owen of San Francisco garage punk outfit Killer’s Kiss are two such individuals — not only generous, but also polite, shockingly kind, and very knowledgeable about records. However, there was one individual I encountered over the weekend who is the very antithesis of these virtues. He was fucking everywhere, and yet those vacant eyes seemed to contradict that really all there at all… a socially retarded boomerang, who, no matter where we left him, would come whistling back and smear the stench of his presence under your feet like dog shit on shag carpeting, droning on endlessly with brutally pointless anecdotes and tactless nonsense that literally got him pissed on. But this individual did offer some worth. This phantom burden managed to waft between walls, while no door could hold him, and eventually he fixed himself to nearly everyone I encountered. It was this nuisance, that many of us could relate to on a common level, which ultimately brought the Austin clan and the boys from the bay area together. Everyone we encountered would ultimately have some outrageous story to recount about some ignorant asshole they’d met who’d done something incredibly stupid to offend them… and sure enough, it always turned out to be this same guy.

We’re flashing back a few hours earlier, for the sake of a proper introduction to the guy who quickly became known as “Talkatron.” I’ll let Chris Owen take over for now:

Clark and I got off the plane in Memphis and our feet hardly touched the ground. I felt like I was floating, half running to get somewhere, anywhere, rocking, out of the airport. We got outside, and it was pretty hot compared to San Francisco. Where are we going? I don’t know… but we’re seeing the fucking Oblivians tomorrow! This is the only overriding thought in my head — a blissful, positive outlook. Nothing could possibly bum me out right now. Goddamn. AND THE CHEATER SLICKS!

We hailed a taxi, and one of those mini-van cabs drove right up to us. We opened the door, and a genial black man said, “Hop in! Where you headed?”

I reached over to slide the door shut and in the time it took me to say “Red Roof, downtown,” this person materialized out of nowhere and wedged his shoe in the door jam. “You guys here for the Oblivians show?”

“FUCK YEAH WE ARE!!!” I yelled, pulling him in. “Wanna split a cab?”

The guy certainly looked the part of your typical, frazzled, alcoholic Oblivians fan — uncombed hair of indeterminate length and style, a faded Reatards shirt, dirty jeans… and I’m sure he probably had standard issue black lowtop converse. He also had a very small duffle bag with him. “What’s your name?” I asked enthusiastically.

“This is cool,” I thought. Just perfect! Get to Memphis, and we instantly meet a fellow traveler. Magical things always seem to happen here.

“Uh… Chris,” he said.

“Me too!” I said. “This is Clark.”

“Where you guys from?” he asked.

“San Francisco, how about yourself?”

“Lexington, Kentucky.”

My mood instantly dimmed. Wait a fucking minute… Not two weeks earlier I had personified the 21st century dipshit by involving myself in a retarded “flame war” (a perfect term) with an obnoxious moron named Chris from Lexington, Kentucky on the Goner Records message board who went by the entirely appropriate handle “Chris Alienator.” Two weeks ago, I was imagining myself shooting this guy in the fucking face. If this was him, I was about to feel a little awkward since we had already been polite to each other. Fucking real life… it always pisses me off.

“Chris ALIENATOR?” I asked, assuming the worst.

He smiled kind of sheepishly, “Uh… Yeah. Ha ha. But don’t tell anybody. Who are you?”

At that point, I just laughed. Of all the people to run into, here’s the dipshit I had murder fantasies about only weeks prior to this trip. Now, he turns out to be this kinda dumpy, relatively affable guy. Were I a more prescient fellow, I would have kicked his ass out of the cab right there since I already know him to be a fuckin’ idiot, but it was kind of difficult because we were already on the highway, and I would have had to lean over him to unlock the door. Oh well. Anyway, he decided then and there to attach himself to us like a leech. His “friends” didn’t return his calls (which he made with MY cell phone), he didn’t want us to tell anyone who he was (someone named “Majic Juan” had threatened to kill him, or something), he talked ENDLESSLY, whether or not he had any idea what he was talking about or not… all of this didn’t really annoy me too much, actually. It was only a few hours after he started drinking that he transformed into this total ass he lived on to be for the next few days. That same night, at some ungodly hour, he kicked in the front of my hotel room door, breaking the lock, and crashed between the twin beds. I awoke to him throwing up in my bathroom.

What luck. Of course, the lesson of all this is that if someone seems like an asshole on an internet message board, the reality of how abominable they probably are as a real person is fucking telescopic. Were I not the ex-Catholic boy I am, I may have been a little less inclined to forgive past idiocy and kick his ass out the first chance I had. Unfortunately, I did not.

Back to you, Max.

Ain’t that some shit? Talkatron had a penchant for drinking himself into what would have been a state of violent belligerence if it weren’t for the fact that he was also physically debilitated by the effects of the alcohol. Nausea was his annoying stand-up sidekick, and at several points he would proudly point out the spots where he’d vomited up various meals he’d had over the weekend.

I’m going to be frank. This guy is a bag of douche; a walking worm-infested encyclopedia of dog-eared, half-eaten truths — a true mental degenerate. His wit is so dull that it permits him to spew out a verbal diarrhea of corrupted fact with a degree of confidence that would infuriate even the most mild mannered of us, though he is obviously so stupid that he borders on retarded, and therefore elicits a degree of pity which prevents any sensitive person from kicking the living shit out of him. His bottomless stamina for expounding on any topic, from the pilgrims to punk rock, even numbed my patience at times. He never shut the fuck up. He was like a rock n’ roll Forrest Gump — an autistic motormouth without any of the redeeming insight that autism usually brings.

Over the course of the weekend, Talkatron was passed from one room to the next, from Chris and Clark, to some of the Texas Rollergirls from our native Austin, and eventually on to our room. If you believe in the theory of psychic energy leaving an impression on the fabric of time during moments of great emotional duress or intensity, then it’s not altogether farfetched to suggest that the room we stayed in at the Red Roof in Memphis now hosts the benevolent spirit of stupidity. Those walls saw too much of Talkatron’s inanity.

While some of this may seem irrelevant, Talkatron was a pivotal character in our trip to Memphis, and resurfaced dozens of times in stories and occurrences. We’re coming to one of those points pretty soon… you’ll see…

THE KING LOUIE PISSING ON TALKATRON STORY
Friday Morning, October 31st – Halloween

Alyse awoke and immediately donned a gaudy pair of aviator glasses, which added dad-like stern but goofy rung to her appearance. The glasses soon came to symbolise this Wink’s militant stance against the enemy: sobriety. We embraced our hangover, and ventured outside of our hotel room while slow risers Penny and Lisa Kodiak were more absorbed in hygienic duties. We weren’t in the fucking mood; sweat that was the consistency of glue was probably the only thing holding us together, and water woulda just brought us down. And so we ventured through the Red Roof, in search of anybody we might recognize, and soon spotted Shannon and Sheri Cardino, the lattter of whom is best known as one of the Texas Roller Girls’ deadliest.

Once we entered their room, Alyse immediately recognised a dense, dirty blond boy resting in a dim corner. Her neck turned to spring as she shouted, “HOLY SHIT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” She embraced him enthusiastically. He had that lived-in look that only hard liquor can leave in its wake — lips peeled back in some half assed smile that isn’t even natural for someone of such a sickly green pallor. His limp limbs and twitching fingers struggled to return the hug. He sat back down, giving me a weak handshake as Alyse introduced me to Chris, an old friend. I immediately caught the faded Reatards shirt. This is the individual that would soon evolve into a boorish beast of burden, otherwise known as Thee Talkatron. When I initially met him, he was quiet, mainly due to the other cheeked tongues battering him. I was somewhat relieved that the Rollergirls were focusing their abuse on him instead of on me for once, but it should have tipped me off that there was something wrong with the guy. Not to mention, it wasn’t at all playful when they did it to him.

Talkatron disappeared shortly after, and I was introduced to Jeannine Attaway, the slinky, demented redhead formerly of the Sir Finks and currently of the Ugly Beats, who told Alyse and I of Chris’ faux pas the night before. Apparently, while we snuggly sucked down our case of Pabst, all hell was breaking loose upstairs as the Horizontal Action kids checked in, along with the Roller Girls. King Louie (or Hirahan Fats at the time) and Jack Yarber showed up for a few drinks, and at some point, Talkatron tried to relate to the natives, resulting in one of the more infamous events that transpired that weekend.

Talkatron wormed into the Roller Girls’ room by the time Hirahan showed up with some friends and his woman. As we have established, Talk doesn’t have too much sense, and made a poor attempt at capitalizing on some common geographical background between he and Louie. He struggled to scrounge up some memory of mutual acquaintences they may have between themselves, but also took it upon himself to inform Hirahan that these people had also died. Hey man, Fats was just there to party and have a good time, and bringing up dead friends really bummed him out. A few minutes later, while Talkatron was laying on one of the twin beds, Louie whipped his dick out and proceeded to piss on Talkatron’s head.

This story never got old with me, so I forced Talkatron to relay the events of his “christening” repeatedly, which he would go through proudly, as if he were honored that King Louie had pissed on him, which made it even funnier and more pathetic.

DAMN YOU, MARTEL!
Friday Night, October 31st

We arrived at Murphy’s after sampling some of the local cuisine, including barbecued spaghetti — a mixture of noodles and barbecue sauce that conjured recollections of just how poor I’d been in the past… only it was much cheaper to eat like shit back when I was a little boy. Don’t let anyone fool you. BBQ’d spaghetti sucks a wanger. Memphis has got to be one of the most ironic cities on the planet — people literally pay top dollar to live the white trash experience. As a tourist, you will eat like a welfare recipient and pay out the ass for it… ultimately, you’re still eating like shit and you’re broke. It balances out.

We made it to Murphy’s after a failed visit to the Stax museum. I respect the town’s legacy, but there was an ongoing history that weekend I would have preferred to have been a part of instead of fortune hunting for souvenirs and getting patronized by some hipster douchebag in the Sun cafe. There was a lot of shit going down that weekend, and Goner had our back with a fact sheet detailing essential events occuring throughout the three-day.

Chris Martel’s watchmeeatahotdog.com grill was smoking carnage by the time we arrived, celebrating the gathering and feeding the “outlanders.” Additionally, a handful of bands were playing, including (We Are) the Ratts, a M.O.T.O. cover band. I had been somewhat receptive to watchmeeatahotdog.com until I tried to grab a bun and was informed that in order to partake of pig lips and assholes I had to have my photo taken while I consumed the actual dog — a loaded gesture. If I hadn’t been so hung over, I would have turned those coals over like Christ did in the temple. Bastards.

Team Horizontal Action were also out in force this weekend, throwing copies of their latest issue around with relative abandon. It provided some actual entertainment for those of us in our group, as the cover featured Miss Penny Tration in all her topless glory, with several swatches of electrical tape obscuring her nipples. That photo op returned to haunt Penny continually over the course of the weekend. Later, someone doctored a copy of the magazine, changing the title to “FRATERNAL ACTION,” which pissed Pen off pretty bad.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING OBLIVIANS
October 31st, Halloween

We managed to ditch Talkatron at Murphy’s for a pre-show drinking session and got into our costumes. Penny took great care to saturate a milk maid outfit in fake blood before putting a pair of vampire fangs in, while Alyse chose to represent local pride by emerging as a Beerland zombie. Lisa… well… Lisa was dressed up, and definitely Texan, but I’m not quite sure what she was. I, on the other hand, dabbed my nose in some black grease paint and stuck some cat ears on my head.

I had been pretty worried about getting into the Hi-Tone, since that one employee had told me they required TN state ID. However, I had a letter from the Hi-Tone’s booker stating that my passport would be kosher. What I got was totally not what I expected. The guy neither carded me, nor asked me for my tickets. Instead, I was practically shoved inside… I could have shown the guy an empty condom wrapper, and I doubt he would have cared.

The crowd was sparse by the time we arrived, so I took a seat on the stage with a few beers and jawed a little. Months earlier, rumours started to circulate regarding who else might be on the bill for the reunion show, names like the Neckbones, the Bad Times, the Persuaders and even the Reatards were being tossed around. Even after the Cheater Slicks had been announced, stories were still circulating, and the fact that the Hives were in attendance that evening threw more kerosene on the pyre. There was even some story that the White Stripes might be playing after the Slicks… but I knew that was unlikely, considering that they were due to play the Voo Doo Fest in New Orleans the next day with the Stooges, let alone the fact that I just think Jack’s a little too distant and management-controlled to even bother with something like this these days.

Some of the locals in the crowd who’d seen the Oblivians countless times during their original hey-day were concerned with how rough the crowd might actually get, and were overwhelmed with the response the reunion had generated on an international level. Throughout the crowd, there were people not just from all over the U.S., but also Canada, Sweden, Germany, and England. But still, concern persisted regarding the actual occupancy of the club, and word was circulating that the Hi-Tone had oversold tickets to the event by some absurd number. In spite of the swelling crowd, many fans who’d only witnessed the Oblivians play to meager palmfuls in the past were happy to see such enthusiastic and healthy numbers there to celebrate the pivotal players’ reformation of what is largely considered by many to be one of the most important band to come out of the last two decades.

I’d never seen the Cheater Slicks before, which only added further anticipation to the bill — and they delivered in spades. A witchery powered hemi engine behind a flesh-grinding butcher’s gears, the Slicks’ brought professionalism and precision to their scuzzy stompers and moody raunch with a performance that remains one of the best of the year and actually almost surpassed the Oblivians’ effort later that night. A select number of folks, including the legendary James Arthur and Bazooka Joe livened up the set and got people moving by absolutely going apeshit, disheveling at least a quarter of the audience with their drunken wanton stagger-and-stomp. I was worried we weren’t going to have any movement in the crowd tonight, but liquor-fuelled slamming, as as I like to call it “friendly fire,” began early on and even chapped some hides — tonight, I just wasn’t interested in standing around with my feet nailed to the floor like Jesus, and even the guy dressed like Christ was getting down, so fuck ‘em.

Another wave of alcohol came, and before I knew it, the Oblivians were setting their gear up on stage and rearing to go. The breakdown between sets flew by furiously, and in no time the show was about to start.

All I can say is, holy motherfucking shit. They launched into it right away, and at some point during “She’s a Hole” I took an inadvertent blow to the face. A quarter into their set, I was bleeding from the mouth and soaked in sweat, most of which wasn’t even mine. Due to extreme drunkness and fatigue, the events of that whole set are like some Rorschach blot. I can make out the vague shapes, and get off enough on that. But it was just a pure, adrenal overload. My brain shut down and I went feral. Instead, I’m just going to put up a video clip I found, which I think entirely captures the event with some accuracy. It’s grainy, unsteady, and has all the atmosphere of a police beating or natural disaster caught on tape. If anyone out there knows who shot this, lemme know, and I’ll surely give them credit for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the motherfucking Oblivians.

And if you’re interested in a setlist:

Jack on Drums
1. Motorcycle Leather Boy
2. Shut My Mouth
3. Static Party
4. She’s A Hole
5. No Reason To Live
6. And Then I Fucked Her
7. Hey Mama, Look At Sis
8. Alcoholic
9. Love Killed My Brain
10. Jim Cole
11. Viet Nam War Blues
12. Five Hour Man
13. Big Black Hole
14. Never Enough
15. No Butter For My Bread
16. Live The Life
17. Memphis Creep
18. Can’t Last Another Night
19. Pill Popper Parts 1 & 2

Eric on Drums
20. Happy Blues

Greg to Drums
21. Strong Come On
22. The Leather
23. Mad Lover
24. Song Inside
25. Blew My Cool
26. Drill
27. Nigger Rich
28. Clones
29. Bum A Ride
30. Never Change
31. So You Want to Be a Rock & Roll Star

Jack on Drums
32. Kick Your Ass
33. Sunday You Need Love
34. Mary Lou
35. I’m Not A Sicko, There’s A Plate In My Head

Midway through the performance, I sought refuge from dehydration and the overbearing heat in the Hi-Tone’s adjoining pool room, from where I could still see and hear everything. I suckled Aquafina bottles in attempt to dilute my inebriation, and in my state of weakness was distracted by a pack of Austinites who’d also made the long trek up for the show. The trio was bickering back and forth, one male, and his two female companions, one of whom served as a moderator between what was obviously brewing into a violent lover’s quarrel. Contempt swelled in my chest as I gathered my bearings and contemplated what I was watching.

Many had traveled from far off corners to see this band — one thing that bound us was our passion for music, and the absolute need to see the Oblivians play what could be one last show. Distance was another thing we had in common with many people, and so point of origin was a badge of honor amongst the core of cheap motel fodder like us. I was lectured a handful of times for what I did next, but at the time you have to understand I was drunk, a little annoyed, and I also thought it was pretty fucking funny. Throughout the evening, I’d seen these three twats bickering in every well-lit spot they could find… it was like bad dinner theater, and they were stabbing for tips from the local patrons with their bad improv prose. This particular group were a thorn in an already sore side when it came to my traveling companions for the most part. Personally, I was never fond of them or their heavy metal hair helmets because I’d grown familiar with their breed: shifty and emotionally needy, bordering on sociopathological catwalk nightmares, desperately craving attention, and every action of theirs was crafted with the sole intention of getting noticed. These assholes didn’t care about the Oblivians. They were only there that weekend because it was the fashionable place to be seen. This fuckin’ offended me. So, when one of the girl’s sat down to cry her Maybelline off, I grabbed a pool cue, and from a safe distance began to jab her in the side while she cried, as if I were torturing some sort of animal ensnared in a trap. If I were sober enough to stand and less sanitary by nature, I probably would have used a finger.

I was having a jolly old time, poking away at the drama pińata with my cue when her boyfriend reared, grabbed the cue, threw it down, and mouthed an obscenity — I lunged at the vulgarity on his breath and found myself looking up a gangly 6′ 5″ pierced mess… his was the frightening visage of Hot Topic Jim Morrison. I remember threatening to tear his head off and beat his skull in with it before staggering off, but that was as close as I got to a fight that weekend. I soon returned to more drinking and merriment, and bruised several more body parts before the show concluded.

…BACK AT THE RANCH
Early Saturday Morning, November 1st

My memory of what occurred after we left the Hi-Tone was something of a blur, though I do have hazy recollections of James Arthur’s cohort, Weston, blasting a can of hairspray down the front of his pants before humping some Morgan Fairchild movie on TV and simulating a money shot with spray-on glitter. He immediately freaked out once he realized he’d gotten glitter in his pubes, and panicked over the notion that his wife might think he’d been cheating on her with strippers or something. Afterward, he staggered from the room, doing an impersonation of Richard Pryor as Darth Vader.

While late night punk rock debate and the blinding consumption of alcohol reigned freely in the Texas Rollergirl suite, Talkatron was pouting off of a balcony somewhere, nursing nausea and melancholy. He must have been oblivious to the fact that King Louie had spotted him again, and was staggering toward him. For a second time, Louie whipped it out and took a whiz on Talkatron.

MY McMARTHYISM
Saturday Afternoon, November 1st
Thanks to all the free alcohol at Cartwright’s Legba Records, I actually didn’t get too broke that weekend, and could afford to walk away with some decent finds. This store has an incredible selection, spanning garage, punk, classic rock, and R&B. For those traveling through or into Memphis, Legba is an essential stop.

After briefly familiarizing ourselves with the shop, we headed over to a church a few blocks away, where purveyor of American trash culture, John Michael McCarthy of Guerilla Monster productions, was previewing “Broad Daylight.” My enthusiasm was nearly girlish when I learned about the event, and thankfully, Lisa was adamant about attending.

McCarthy’s obscurity is unfortunate, though he has remained a steady influence on my writing and art since I discovered his comics as a teenager while working at a local comic shop in California. More folks are familiar with McCarthy for his wry, Bergman-takes-junkyard shorts and fine roster of corpulent ink-stained dolls. However, McCarthy is also an accomplished illustrator, and one of the top comic artists in the country, standing alongside the likes of Tony Millionaire and Charles Burns. McCarthy’s crowning achievement in the realm of comics came in the form of Cadavera, a bizarre tale of Nazi intrigue and necrofanaticism, featuring a voluptuous title character sewn from the parts of dismembered Hollywood Babylon sex-idols. Chockfull of naked curves and other questionable sexual themes, the material’s “adults-only” designation was a major appeal, but the art still remains some of the best produced during the 1990s. McCarthy’s stark black and white imagery juxtaposed the bubbly homogeny of the nuclear era’s 1950s maltshop gang ŕ la Bob Montana’s Archie comics with a spectacular cacophony of perversion, sadism, violence, addiction and motorized kicks, reminiscent of the diseased frustrations detailed throughout Rbt. Williams’ work. With Cadavera, McCarthy pulled the suggestive nature of Montana out of the closet, then drugged it, put it in lewd poses, abused it, and photographed it in all lurid nakedness. McCarthy’s work battered the instructional subtext on glossy virtues incorporated into most 1950s and 1960s media. McCarthy also did some work on Apple comics Dracula titles, a smoky homage to the gothic icon, embellishing the character’s sinister sensuality in what stands as the best comic treatment of Stoker’s character. There was even a brief crossover featuring both Dracula and Cadavera, though it unfortunately was never conlcuded.

It wasn’t until I moved to New York City and worked at a video store that I became aware of McCarthy’s film work. A copy of “Teenage Tupelo” popped up in our mailbox. As I mentioned before, the majority of McCarthy’s works have a queer Bergman-does-Elvis look to them, sometimes even evoking the atmosphere and humor of John Waters’ earlier work.

When I arrived, I was somewhat awe-stricken when I came face to face with someone whom I’d idolized for so long… much was the case when meeting Friedl and Cartwright, too. But like everyone else I’d met that weekend, he turned out to be a very positive person, pleasant in manner and generous to boot. I spoke to McCarthy briefly about his career and his intended projects, and even squeezed a little info out on the long rumored Cadavera feature film project. John quipped modestly, “aren’t you tired of just hearing about that?”

McCarthy indulged me though with an update on the production. At the time, he was pursuing financing for the film, and had approached Iggy Pop’s management with a roll in the film. In a startling note of interest, McCarthy also said that if the film got off the ground that the Gories may reunite to cut a few tunes for the soundtrack!

What’s the likelihood of somebody giving McCarthy a shitload of money to produce this film? Probably slim, unfortunately, but unlike most filmmakers out there, the man has vision, talent, and some fantastic ideas. In the meantime, I’ll definitely cross my fingers.

We seated ourselves in the cozy basement screening room and were joined by McCarthy, who provided us with a brief introduction, wherein he stated that we ought to unplug our brains and just enjoy the sights and sounds. At this point, our group was severely hung over — our brains were using our eyeballs for congas, and our stomachs were forming a line to the beat. The cold, dark space and the downtime were just what we needed.

“Broad Daylight” was a no-brainer, but stimulating nonetheless — a joyous recollection of the long-dead art known as the stag reel, as punk rock cuties shimmied through various stages of undress to numerous notable tunes. The Pontani Sisters’ “Go-Go-Robics” release is second only to this film as one of the greatest party films released in the last decade, and should be in any garage punk fan’s collection. Great fodder for drunken mixers, providing a great soundtrack and provocative accompanying imagery most anyone should appreciate. In spite of the fact that this format was born to titillate, there was a bizarre air of innocence throughout the production.

KING “HIRAHAN FATS” LOUIE IN-STORE AT LEGBA RECORDS
Saturday Evening, November 1st
I felt rejuvenated and recharged by the screening’s atmosphere, and headed back to Legba records for an in-store performance by Hirahan Fats. Hirahan was nowhere to be found though and the crowd seemed somewhat disoriented in their loitering. Soon, we heard that Louie had shown up, but was so drunk that he’d forgotten to bring his guitar equipment, which put the kibosh on the set.

We sat around and put a few more beers in us while our group bought stuff, and I had a nice little conversation with Clark Mosher about the Beasts Of Bourbon and the Scientists. Meanwhile, Talkatron had reemerged and was yammering on about everything and nothing in particular in that deep, dry tone of his, carving his way into every conversation he overheard and commenting on every sleeve anybody happened to pull up. If ever John Wiley and Sons produces a Dummy’s Guide to Punk Rock, then Chris Alienator would be the dummy to author it. At this point, everyone’s patience was wearing thin, and almost everyone was vocal with respect to their contempt for his bottomless barrage of banalities.

At dusk, we headed back to the hotel room, where we hung out with Matt from the Baseball Furies and Brian Miller from the Functional Blackouts, drank some more, and watched a special all nudity episode of COPS before leaving for the Lost Sounds show at a very late hour.

GOD BLESS THE LOST SOUNDS
Saturday Night, November 1st

[audio:http://www.letthemeatlead.com/mp3s/lostsounds-1620_echols_st.mp3]
By the time we got to the Hi-Tone I was pretty fucking irritated, since it was so late, and we only got their in time to catch the last song of the Final Solutions’ set — a performance I was really looking forward to, since I’d heard nothing but positivity regarding their progress and improvement as a live act. I was impressed by what little I saw though, which only pissed me off even more. This was fortunately the only time we were late during the entire trip, and considering the foot we got off on this was quite surprising.

There was yet another point of agitation that evening, when I noticed the Lost Sounds setting up promptly after the Solutions broke their gear down. All bills had listed the order with the Lost Sounds headlining over Viva La American Deathray, never mind the fact that the Lost Sounds are the superior band. Regardless, Jay and Alicja precisely pumped out a scalding cache of songs from their catalog.

Genre-bending punk rock auteur Jay Reatard’s ability to seamlessly assimilate elements of Oblivians-style punk rhythm with Gary Numan’s progressive modern noise, elements of Goblin’s electronic-infused prog rock aggression and Enio Morricone’s bombasity are what propel the Lost Sounds to the forefront of relevant contemporary punk rock. Right now, not many bands do it better than the Lost Sounds or the Spits. While Jay’s distinct contribution to the soundscape of the band was a main appeal from their beginning, I have become infatuated with the element that Alicja Trout brings to the band. Alicja owns the machine rock configuration that has made their material increasingly appealing, and I identify her vocals with Numan now more than Dale Bozzio.

With every encounter, my interest in Alicja’s material and performance grows.

SETLIST:

What’d I Say
Black Coats, White Fear
Plastic Skin
Heartfelt
Do You Wanna Kill Me
1620 Echeles St.
Better Than Something
I Think I’m Dead
I’m Not A Machine
(I don’t remember what song came after this point, so forgive me)
Energy Drink and the Long Walk Home
Frozen In Time
Don’t Turn Around
Clones Don’t Love

After the Lost Sounds came Viva La American Deathray. I would go as far as to say that I despise this band’s material. Thin, watery, anglo, and lacking gusto. They seemed like nice guys, but I just don’t dig this hipster flavor, no matter how fashionable it is. I was a little surprised by how receptive and enthusiastic the crowd was toward the band.

At this point, our party was scattered but seemingly eager to leave and get off to whatever party might be happening. In spite of the fact that no one was into Deathray, we remained at the Hi-Tone a good hour after they left the stage. The velvet rut persisted, even when word that the Tearjerkers were playing a house party reached us. We later tried to follow James Arthur to some party at a KISS enthusiast’s estate, but faulty directions defeated those plans. While we were driving with eighty drunken motherfuckers in Penny’s minivan; Clark and Chris were playing pinball at the party and listening to Pagans demos. Fuck them.

Now, Lisa DiRocco is probably one of the more civil people I have met in all my days, and she’s certainly never one to cause confrontation. So of course it was a surprise when she came to verbally blast Talkatron.

For all the boastful caterwauling this kid did make over his hangovers, I never once saw him take a drink, nor did I ever encounter him in a drunken state. Yet, he was always in this perpetual state of migraine-ridden nausea. Of course, he would relieve us of his company occasionally while hanging out with some phantom pack of friends, so I suppose it was possible that in the few short hours he was away that he freebased a few quarts of rubbing alcohol… but it’s not real fuckin’ likely, and I was to believe both his friends and these drinking binges were entirely fiction, or at least exaggerated. His incessant complaints were a constant irritant, and really, you’d think someone who claimed to be an alcoholic would either build some sort of tolerance to the substance they’re abusing or they’d learn how to drink in moderation… this guy came off like some two-beer queer of a novice, though.

Just outside the Hi-Tone a little before leaving, Talkatron was pissing and moaning to Lisa about how sick he felt, who expressed concern by suggesting that he try to drink in MODERATION… I believe the exact phrase was, “That’s why you gotta pace yourself, ya know?”

Of all the people who’d given him shit that weekend, for some reason Chris chose to snap at Lisa. I never saw him stand up to those who put him down or made fun of him. When Penny made the Talkatron handpuppet and went “BLAH BLAH BLAH” with it every time he spoke, cutting off whatever inanity he was going to spew, he never said shit. Whenever Shannon told him to shut the fuck up because he didn’t have the “talk stick,” he merely smiled. When Hirahan pissed on him, not once, but twice, he took it. When I physically threatened him after he questioned my musical knowledge, he called it quits. But for some reason, when Lisa met his compulsive bitching with good advice, he felt the need to snap at her.

“Don’t tell me how to fucking drink. I’ve been drinking for a long time.”

Lisa paused for a moment or two before firing back, “You know what? Fuck you. You’re the rudest person I have ever met in my life. Don’t fucking talk to me for the rest of the weekend.”

The fact that Talkatron was able to crack Lisa’s righteous shell of tolerance is a testament to how large a douchebag he truly is.

“I WILL SHOOT YOU!”
Early Morning, November 2nd
Precisely a twelve pack later and I was feeling all right back at the Red Roof Inn. Clark got back from the party, and we all hung out with Butters, from San Antonio, and some of the Nervous Action folks. Some of us moved on to the balcony, and it wasn’t too soon until some rent-a-cop whore started screaming at us from the parking lot. Butters mimicked her cockney southern accent at the top of his lungs… she shouted back, “GET BACK IN YOUR ROOMS, OR I WILL SHOOT YOU!”

She later explained in a more peaceable tone that she didn’t want anyone getting robbed or mugged while on Red Roof property, and that our belongings weren’t safe — this, in spite of the fact that there were probably a large pack of around thirty plus people milling around on the balcony.

Everyone started locking their doors and divvying up liquor, and Alyse, Clark, Jeremy, Talkatron, and I all retreated back to Clark’s room since we heard our room was “occupied.” We sat around discussing music and abusing Talkatron until his cab arrived. When he threw open the door to leave, the early morning daylight flooded into the room as we hissed and scrambled out of its path like a pack of offended moles.

Chris showed up a few minutes later, and much to his delight still found us drinking heavily. He had apparently been off with aspirations of getting up to no good, but had been woefully disappointed by his companions’ low level of stamina. As Chris opened the door, he threw his hands up and exclaimed with utter relief, “Thank fucking god… I’m so glad to find you all still up and partying, goddamnit. I was hanging out with these guys, and they did a bunch of speed and fell asleep at 6am. They had Dead Moon Tattoos. I thought they’d be cool.”

Alyse and I retreated to our room and fell asleep watching the Power Puff Girls. Brian Miller was sleeping on one of the beds, and occasionally woke up in a half-dazed state to shout out “OH! MOJO JO-JO!” before disintegrating again.

GOING BACK TO TEXAS
November 2nd
We woke up around mid-day, and in spite of all I’d drank the night before and my lack of sleep, I felt fine; the hangover never came, either. Sadly, we woke up too late to attend the sermon at Al Green’s ministry, but apparently the Reverend Green didn’t see over the proceedings that morning anyway.

I sat out in the parking lot while everyone packed and said their goodbyes, contemplating how strange time seemed to flow that weekend. While it felt like we’d been gone for weeks, it all still went by so incredibly fast.

We all drove out to some quaint little diner downtown, where a number of the other faces we’d seen that weekend were having their last meal in Memphis before heading back home. I opted for the usual Cheeseburger deluxe, and what I got was a slab of ground round wrapped in two grease soaked pieces of wonder bread. I think this pretty much epitomizes Memphis.

The ride back was pretty swift, and we got back to Austin at about 12:30 am. Our last conversation in the van pretty much confirmed amongst all of us that it was wonderful to be from a town we couldn’t wait to get back to, while most everyone else we’d encountered that weekend just didn’t want to ever go back home. None of us felt like calling an official end to the weekend either, so decided we ought to hit downtown once we dropped our shit off.

Penny dropped Alyse and I off at Billy’s apartment, where we gave him some presents to make up for missing the Oblivians show, before heading down to Elysium, Austin’s local gothic and industrial club, just right next door to Beerland. Being a fan of both industrial and pale women with dark hair, I admit to a certain fascination with the club and its element… but in all truth, Elysium (formerly the Atomic Cafe) is probably the best nightclub in Austin as far as the physical layout is concerned. It’s often dead during the week days, and often I’ll just grab a PBR, sit on the edge of the dance floor, and absorb the “BOOM-BOOM-BOOM” of the PA while watching waifish tarts twirl around each other.

We got inside and had a few drinks, and it wasn’t too soon before Lisa and Penny showed up. Exhaustion set in by the time Ray Valentine showed up, who let me in on the tragedy that I had just missed seeing the Meteors play down the street at the Flamingo Cantina… bummer.

One word could best sum up that weekend: surreal. And it even persisted until the bitter end. As we all said goodbye outside after last call, one of Elysium’s bouncers dragged out some idiot in a kilt by the scruff of his neck and slammed him against the building with one hand while he held the guy’s digicam in the other. The bouncer admonished the guy through clenched teeth, “You don’t take pictures of guy’s dicks in the bathroom!”

He threw the guy against the ground, and then smashed his camera against the sidewalk. The dipshit in the skirt lobbed threats as he collected the broken pieces of his camera and ran to avoid any further thrashing.

After that, I just decided to go home and get to bed. There could be no better punctuation to our trip than that, and it truly was damn good to be back home.

One thought on “OBLIVIAN OR BUST: OBLIVIANS REUNION ROAD TRIP DIARY

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