October 26th, 2009 §
The son of a North Carolina radio DJ, “psychobilly godfather,” serious road warrior and armchair politician*, Mojo Nixon and I go way back.
I saw him at one of Curt Schieber’s “No Other Presents” concerts at the Newport. He was opening for the Pogues, still paired with Skid Roper on the washtub bass (and other instruments). Curt probably had a hefty bar tab to pay that night.
I remember Mojo beating on a huge plastic water jug — the kind that offices use for the water cooler. He was singing “Mushroom Maniac,” and instantly, I felt a kindred spirit.
For anyone unfamiliar with the genius of Mojo Nixon, I need only give the titles of some of his “hits”: “Don Henley Must Die,” “Burn Down the Malls,” “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with my Two-headed Love Child,” “Bring Me Head of David Geffen,” “Elvis is Everywhere,” and “When Did I Become My Dad?”
I saw him in the Queen City (Cincinnati) in the Reagan years. He was ranting about Nancy being an astrology cultist.
“We all know that star worship is the work of the Devil,” he said. “So repeat after me: Nancy Reagan sucks Satan’s dick!” Even the obvious frat boys in the crowd were chanting along.
In the 1980s, he popped up on MTV with mini-rants and guest appearances, which landed him in bigger rooms than mine. But from the mid-90s until Little Brother’s closed, he played my rooms roughly once a year. From For a time, he lived in Cinci and hosted a libertine Libertarian-ish radio show on WLW.
I have my own band, “The Wahoos,” and we are a big hit at the Columbus Community Festival. Nuthin’ like a free festival to bring out the crowds. We once opened for Mojo Nixon and the Toadliquors. Mojo actually got there early enough to catch our set and gave us a great backhanded compliment. He said “ya know, when a promoter opens the show, they usually suck real bad. But you guys didn’t suck too bad at all!”
I ought to put that in the band’s press package.
When he did a “Bingo for Mojo” for local station CD101 at Chelsie’s (a club that often competed with mine for shows), he came to Stache’s later that night. I asked him how it went and he said “well, you know – too many radio weasels.”
Another time he came to Stache’s after a gig at campus club The Newport and jammed with local blues dudes the “Men of Leisure.”
He was also quite the ladies’ man. He tried to pick up one of my female bartenders by showing her pictures of his newborn baby – a truly suave gentleman.
The Moj also made a great impression on my Mrs. He came to town to play on three separate occasions when she was saying goodbye to a job – great comedic timing.
Mojo retired from the road around the time I closed Little Brother’s, although I hear he’s coming out to play a couple of Texas gigs with Dash Rip Rock and the New Duncan Imperials – another bar tab I’d hate to be responsible for. He hosts several shows on satellite radio about “outlaw country music,” NASCAR and politics.
For just a couple more days, you can get most of Mojo’s catalog for free on Amazon, including a live performance of his latest mega success, “What’s Up Judge Judy’s Ass?” – a dark and scary place, I’m sure, having once been a participant on that infamous TV show. (Someday, through the wonder of the blogosphere, we’ll go there.)
* Campaign slogan: “Put another Nixon in the White House: Mojo Ain’t No Dick.”
October 20th, 2009 §
Hey kids… Pop quiz!
What show sold out the fastest in the history of Stache & Little Brother’s?
Nirvana? The Ventures? Tiny Tim and Camper Van Beethoven?
No. Nope. Nada.
It wasn’t “Jim Beam presents Lucinda Williams and Joe Ely,” Smashing Pumpkins or Sun Ra either.
Daughtry. In seven minutes. Yeah, that’s right, the American Idol also-ran Chris Daughtry.
And you know what? That success couldn’t have happened to a better guy. Believe it or not, dude man has a heart of gold.
Yes, I’m a cynic too, but the guy was at the top of the charts and he still thought he owed it to some of the little guy night clubs who had helped him get up there. We lucked out because he needed a connecting date between those guys, and the band wanted a chance to pull their act together in front of small crowds before working up to major venues.
Ben Hamilton, my talent buyer at the time, doesn’t watch TV and didn’t know who Daughtry was.
I thought it would be the biggest headache ever, far worse than dealing with Bob Pollard’s Budweiser-pounding entourage, some local open-mic hip hop artists or that troll in Nashville Pussy.
And Daughtry’s business people were absurd, asking questions like “what’s your marketing strategy?” well after the high-speed sellout. We had to compromise on numerous production issues, which was not at all unusual when the act was accustomed to playing on much larger stages. Still, we had to remind his people that he wanted to play there – an independent mid-sized club with limitations that network television would never encounter. They neglected to ask us in advance to hold back a large number of tickets for their guest list.
Consequently, I expected big hassles from the road manager. That wasn’t the case. Anything I had thought was bound to go wrong was painlessly resolved on the day of the show. And Chris himself couldn’t have been nicer.
He wanted to shave and the men’s room mirror was covered with stickers, so he went into the women’s room. Shortly thereafter, my better half, Tracy, who had just arrived to pick me up for dinner, ran in there while my back was turned. She was startled when she found the pop star grooming, and he said “Hi there. Go ahead. Don’t worry, I promise I won’t listen,” and started humming a tune.
His longtime bandmates and crew were also easy and not unlike the majority of underground rock bands.
The crowd, however, was filled overwhelmingly with women who apparently don’t get out much and didn’t seem to know how to act at a concert. I’m not sure where they learned that if you voted for a contestant on a performance television show, it somehow gave you propriety over him and all other people in the general area, like bar staff, doormen and stage personnel. They requested that Chris dedicate songs to them in return for their tireless telephone-dialing efforts. Some of the crowd showed up at 9 a.m. and made a general nuisance of themselves all day.
Regardless, once again, the old book cover adage about judgment applies. Not everybody that hangs with “dawgs” wakes up with fleas.
October 6th, 2009 §
“I’m a nice guy,” said punk rock star Eric Davidson, when I tried to discuss our strained relations.
“Yea, me too,” I thought. But I didn’t go into his place every few months and knock fiberglass ceiling tiles down.
That, however, was a minor inconvenience in my world. And though it usually cost a few bucks to replace two or three of them, and itched like hell when I couldn’t get Skippy, the sometimes fix-it guy to do it, what the hell. The New Bomb Turks brought us a full house and boffo beer sales.
But the night of the benefit, things got personal.
We were trying to raise money to move Stache & Little Brother’s down to the Short North, and a series of benefits were scheduled to help pay the tab. The architecture bills, remodeling costs, legal fees for the change of use and numerous variances, etc. etc. etc., ended up costing over $200 grand, most of which was borrowed from good friends, digging me into a hole that I never thought I’d get out of.
The benefit shows and those last few months at 2404 N. High raised way less than we had hoped, and I was drinking heavily, even for an Irishman like me.
But that night, I was sober. I was back by the sound board and the kids were a little wild. Tera, our soundperson, had just commented on how calm and tolerant I was being when some knuckleheads climbed up on the light truss. It was just a skinny metal pole, hung between two pieces of flimsy wood, and I was afraid that the whole rig would crash down on Eric’s “nice guy” head.
So I went to the stage and asked Davidson to hand me the microphone so that I could speak to the crowd through my P.A. He refused to hand it over, stepped away from me and hid it behind his back. I blew up.
I hand-signaled Tera to kill the sound, and when the song was over, I addressed the hecklers in the crowd without amplification. I said something about them being pseudo-punk rockers and and that anyone feeling up to it could follow me out back for a private discussion. There were no takers, thank my lucky stars.
I foolishly threw a beer bottle, which sailed past Matt Reber (the bass player’s) head. Somehow, he and I are still friends. Then I gave the band back the night’s take, at their request. The next day I wrote an apology to those in the crowd that I felt didn’t deserve my anger, and posted it at Used Kids Records. That note, of course, ended up in The Other Paper.
Eric later became a music critic and wrote about Little Brother’s, calling it “blasé.” Though they did play there a few times, I think they preferred Skully’s.
Eric also wrote that politics has no place in punk rock, although I think I saw his name on a pro-public option health care petition. I’m still a liberal, whose favorite punkers — The Clash, Patti Smith, The Minutemen, etc. — are all about the body politic. And Eric and I, of course, are still “nice guys.”