Saturday, February 11, 2012

Call Me Pigtail 11/20

It's hard to leave the Country Rockers in the middle of their second set and go across the street to the dark and nasty confines of the Antenna Club, but we're due on stage in a half an hour and we need to put on our stage tuxes and get our voices limbered up. There are a few people there, not many, it's a Wednesday night and we're pretty unknown, but there's a good rock feeling in the air. We hit the stage and people stop what they're doing to stare at us, always a good sign, and afterward we collect quite a few names for the mailing list, a few more sick and twisted fans.

After the people are gone and the gear is more or less packed up we're sitting at the bar having a post-gig cocktail, watching a flickery image on the black and white TV behind the bar. It's hooked up to a VCR and they are showing a video of last night's show here, some slimy motherfucker rolling around on the ground, and I'm watching, and I realize it's gg allin, a true madman, a bad person, a performance artist really, who strips naked and shits on stage and throws his poo into the crowd, and generally goes one big step farther than any other "punk" act in existence. His music is without any merit whatsoever but I guess you have to give him some kind of credit. We're watching, transfixed, and gg is rolling on the stage in broken glass from a bottle he smashed on himself, there's shit and blood all over -- how did they clean this up? The club does smell like bleach, come to think of it. This is really disturbing. Then gg rolls over and there's something coming out of his ass, a tube of some kind, a thin black cord. A microphone cord. "Whoa," I say. "Does he have that mic completely up his ass?" The bartender dude looks up at the screen and laughs. "Yeah," he says. "It took us forever to clean that fucker off."

“To clean off what – the mic?”

“Yeah,” says the bartender. “Nasty.”

I have to put two and two together, though God knows I don't want to: the mic I had spent all night singing into had spent much of the previous evening up the ass of one of the most unclean humans alive. What place on earth could be more toxic than gg allin's colon?

Bartender, another drink!

The Antenna club out-punked us, maybe, but a couple of nights later we get our revenge by out-punking Tipitina's, apparently a legendary club in New Orleans. Already over a week into our first NDI tour, we're submerging into our new identities with alarming ease. We are basically always in character, at breakfast, in truck stops, at the hotel, and of course at the shows, and our first glimpse of the moss-heavy trees and wrought-iron balconies of the old town feels like coming home. We can be our new selves here without thinking twice, since everyone else seems to be engaged in their own inside joke, their own bit. Some folks are wearing hats just like ours. Fans? Not yet...

We pull up and hike on into Tipitina's, a classy joint that is gorgeous and big and by far the nicest club we have played on this tour, or ever. How the fuck did we get this gig? Apparently Kenn, the suddenly motivated booking agent for the New Duncan Imperials, had convinced them that the band would be perfect for their weekly "Live from Tip's" radio broadcast on WTUL, the Tulane University college radio station. So we are in the middle of a triple bill of bands playing what would these days be called "alternative rock," and the entire performance will be broadcast live on the radio. Can you see snazzy tux coats and flying chicken claws on the radio? No, but who cares? All we have to do is be exactly on-time to the stage. And no swearing.

The old band would have taken this shit seriously. The new band doesn't take anything seriously, and so ninety seconds before we're supposed to take our positions on stage Skipper decides that our matching green pants, purchased the day before at a Salvation Army store in a town somewhere around Birmingham, would look slick with our white tux coats. He's right -- we absolutely need to change. So the NDI start pulling off their pants in the dressing room while the dead-voiced college radio deejay girl begins introducing the band. "Next we have The New Duncan Imperials, from Bucksnort, that's in Tennessee... and we've been promised a highly visual show... The New Duncan Imperials... from Bucksnort..." It's a long and wonderfully awkward moment, the empty air and this helpless college mouse with nothing behind her voice, no power, even when she intones in disgust, "amazing...", and then finally, five minutes late, the band bursts onto the stage, banging drums and throwing handfuls of breakfast cereal at the crowd, and we strap on and the first shot of power knocks them back, it has this entire tour, and after everyone gets their feet back under them it's off to the races, forty minutes of prehistoric riffs mixed with Klassic Kountry, including a song we picked up from our Country Rockers cassette, "Rockin Daddy from Ding Dong Tennessee," and then GT is out in the crowd handing out our free-shit gift of choice these days, Sta-Puft marshmallows, and he shows the crowd how to whip them at us, and now we're playing in a hail of the harmless things, they patter against us while our power riffs push the crowd around like drunken sailors on a sinking ship, and this is what it is, why we are what we are. “Aw,” says Skipper after a brutal take on “Jimi Page Loves Country,” “you fuckers are the best!” He really means it, and it's true, but he forgot we're not supposed to swear, and soon a stage manager dude, the kind of person we have come to refer to as a "squid," is at the side of the stage waving his arms around, trying to get us to stop. But Skipper says it again: “No, really. I mean it. You guys are the fucking BEST!” The squid is losing his mind, they shut off our vocal mics, and we do “Velour” and just yell the title at the crowd, and we're done, we leave the stage, we rule. The lecture from the squid is a foregone conclusion, and as it turns out pretty entertaining in its own right. The deejay girl will not speak to us. We wander out into the crowd and people are smiling and laughing, we entertained them, mission accomplished, and I am high on life and a fair amount of Jagermeister and I lean up on the bar to get another drink and this random dude next to me turns on his barstool and looks me in the eye and says, "Honestly, and I really mean this, you guys are the worst band I have ever seen in my life."

Mission accomplished!

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