It was another one of those weeks. I've been having so many of them lately that I won't bore you by going into it anymore. I bring it up only because I almost didn't go out last night, except that the last time I was supposed to go see Jones Crusher, I punked out (pun intended) and stayed home that night. So this time, I was determined to get my butt out the door to support one of Long Island's treasures, the mighty Crusher. And in the end, I'm glad I did.
I had run into Sean and Dan Crusher a couple of months ago at the Gary Numan show, and that was when Sean had told me that Crusher was doing a Thanksgiving show at Mr. Beery's in November. This sounded good to me, so I put it on my calendar.
I've had some computer problems recently, so I haven't been able to get onto Denise's Facebook page as easily as before. However, during the week, Sean contacted Denise and asked if I'd be willing to join him onstage to sing my song with him (more on that later), and what key was it in? I sent the info back, but told her to let him know I'd had a bad cold all week, so I wasn't sure if I'd have any voice come Saturday.
By Saturday, I still wasn't sure. I'd spent the last few days drinking hot teas and eating chicken soup, but I definitely wasn't in peak condition.
Originally, I kind of planned this as a group outing. I was hoping Denise would be able to come with me, although part of me was relieved that she'd be at home, so if there were any problems on that front, she'd be there to handle it. I was also hoping our friend Rich the drummer could join us, but he also had a busy day planned, which I think ended at Bartini's (or maybe a different venue?) to see our friend Chris play in the band Media Crime. So I was on my own.
I actually found Mr. Beery's after one false move (I always forget if I should be looking to get off the Southern State at Route 106 or 107. Turns out there is no exit for 106 -- I think it sprouts out of Route 107 somewhere further up north.) I should remember how to get there, but it's been about ten years since the last time I was there. (Life flies by when you're a Dad.)
It turns out the show was a benefit show that Sean put together for his friend (and longtime Crusher fan) Kevin Williams. Kevin is a frequent world traveler, but recently, he had a horrific auto accident in Germany. From what I understand, this was further complicated by a botched surgery after the wreck, which has left Kevin paralyzed from the hips down. And because of his condition, it's going to cost $50 or $60,000 just to fly him back to the States. So the show was put together to at least help with this.
Now a word about Mr. Beery's: Steve Beery has been one of the foremost supporters of the original music scene on Long Island for decades now. He's also always Johnny-on-the-spot for benefit shows. Look at his calendar almost any month, and chances are, there's a benefit going on at Beery's.
I arrived at Beery's at about 9PM, parked in front of the nearby Dunkin' Donuts (which is blessedly always open late if you need a cup of coffee or a donut before your ride home), and came in. I found a seat at the very end of the bar, which worked for me. I settled in, as Sean set up the musical equipment onstage.
I hoped to run into a few familiar faces from the music scene, but except for the Crushers and Steve Beery himself, that didn't happen. (Weirdly enough, the only familiar person I did run into was someone who recognized me from the Patchogue Weight Watchers meetings.) So I spent most of the night simply listening to the music, and texting with my family.
The first band up was a punk rock band from Long Beach, called the Filthy Twolips. They played a fairly long set (which I suspect was longer than they intended -- at one point, Sean asked them to stretch it out a little, probably indicating that the second band was stuck in traffic.) Their songs were short, and often kind of funny. One song was called "Sex Offender", and seemed to be at least partially about Penn State football coaches. It was hard to understand everything, as I was a little bit removed from the action, but I'd swear that another was about "choking on a dick." Still a third was called "Gimme Gimme VD Baby". For obvious reasons, I don't think they'd be my first choice to play an all-ages party at your local community center. But for a bar, on a Saturday night, I thought they were pretty enjoyable. (They also did a couple of hockey-themed songs, possibly as a homage to the well-loved Long Island punk band Two Man Advantage. Or possibly not.)
As the next band set up, there were a bunch a raffle tickets sold for the benefit, and shot girls wandered around with trays of jello shots. As usual, I sat there with my Diet Coke. I'd have ordered food to support the place (and my belly), but the only food Beery's sells themselves are bags of chips. (Although for the starving, they will, as a courtesy, put in a call to order something from the diner next door.) They drew the 50-50 raffle. I didn't win, but the guy who did was nice enough to donate the money back into Kevin's relief fund.
Sean served as Master of Ceremonies throughout the night, sometimes wearing a top hat, sometimes a London bobby hat (looking for all the world as if he was about to blurt out, "Here now, what's all this, then?"). He also entertained the crowd with his best Rodney Dangerfield impersonation and Henny Youngman jokes.
The next band up was a high-energy act from Brooklyn, called Chesty Malone and the Slice 'Em Ups. This was more of a biker/serial killer punk rock band with a female lead singer. In some ways , they made me think of the old '80s horror flick Alone in the Dark, which featured a rock band called the Sic Fucks, who brandished axes and sang a song called "Chop Up Your Mother". Chesty and the boys entertained the crowd with touching little ditties such as "Fucking and Killing" (which I suspect was their version of that lovely Sound of Music song, "My Favorite Things"). They also did a number called "Everybody Hurts", although somehow, their song sounded a lot more painful than the R.E.M. song of the same name (which they referenced in their intro). These guys have apparently been around since 2006, and it shows (in a good way). They're lively, and polished, and they know how to keep a crowd's attention.
By the time Chesty Malone finished, it was almost 11PM, and things were getting dicey. I hadn't really planned to stay too late, as I'd promised my son I'd give his friend a ride home. But I came out to see Jones Crusher, and I certainly intended to see at least some of their set. Luckily, my son is always delighted if his friends can stay over later. I definitely felt under a bit of time pressure, though.
This time pressure got even worse, as Sean and the band were then obliged to not only set up their gear, but also to draw tickets for an incredible number of raffles. They raffled off an acoustic guitar, tickets to the Beery's New Year's show, tickets to some other show on the following night (which I can't even remember whose show it was), band march from the Twolips, band merch from Chesty Malone, band march from bands I'd never heard of who weren't even there, and so on and so forth. And half of the numbers that were drawn had to be drawn again, as the winner had either left for the evening, or was too blasted to read his (or her) ticket. I munched nervously on a chocolate cup cake provided for the show by one of Sean's baker friends, and kept an eye on the time. The last couple of raffle items, I think, were just lobbed gently into the crowd, without even being won, so that Crusher could get their set started. And finally, at about 11:45, they did.
Jones Crusher always puts on an enjoyable show. I haven't seen the band in a while, so I was surprised to see that Sean and Dan's new bandmate is a young female bass player, Marissa Tres Crusher. (At one point, Sean said she was from Romania, but I'm pretty sure he was joking, as he also claimed that Dan was from Hungary.) They then blazed into a set that included a lot of material I wasn't previously familiar with (such as "Move to Brooklyn", "Intimidation Room" and Doctor Winston"), plus a few Crusher classics that I definitely knew (including "Arm Chair Vampire" and one of my personal favorites, "Chinese Buffet"). At one point, I thought I was definitely going to have to leave mid-set, and I even put my jacket on. But like an FBI hostage negotiator, I was able to work it out with my son that his friend would stay until 2. (At this point, it was about 12:15, and the ride home is about an hour). So I knew I'd be able to stay for the full set. A song or two later, Sean called out from the stage, and asked if I was still in the house. And so, in my secret identity as blues singer Howlin' Hughes, I made my way towards the front of the room, where Steve Beery and I joined The Crusher for an abrupt change in musical direction.
Most artists have their greatest hits. Overkill! I have one, singular, greatest hit. And God forbid it doesn't go over, because after that, I've got nothin'.
Now bear in mind, in real life, I'm a musical idiot who happens to love music. I can play just a little bit of acoustic guitar, and that's the extent of my musicianship. When I write about music, I write about what I hear, and how it affects me, but I don't have a great deal of technical knowledge to draw from. But somewhere along the way, some kindly real musician taught me that if I told a band of musicians who actually knew what they were doing to play "12-bar blues in the key of G", I'd most likely get some approximation of what I needed in order to sing my song with them. So with Steve warming up his key of G harmonica, and the mighty Crusher preparing to accompany me, for the first time in about ten years, I prepared to reach for my blues voice and see if I could manage to croak something out that wouldn't just embarrass the hell out of all of us.
"Alien Anal Probe Blues", my aforementioned "greatest hit", was inspired equally from three things. The first was from the stories of Michael McMullen, the creator and lead singer/guitarist of the space rock band Argon and the Flying Saucers. Mike created Argon because as a young man growing up in Selden in the eighties, he spent a lot of time watching the skies. And according to him, the Island was a hotbed of UFO activity at that time. This is likely true, because what Mike didn't know then was that there was some sort of Air Force base on the South Shore that was obviously the source of a goodly percentage of the night lights in the sky he was witnessing. But Mike's stories led me to always associate the Selden and Stony Brook area with space aliens.
The second inspiration was the blues. I have to admit, I'm not really a big blues fan, although Long Island has quite a good (and an active) blues scene. But I've always kind of teased my blues friends about the simple structures of some blues songs, and argued that they were all interchangeable -- that you could sing any blues song over the chords of just about any other blues song. (I know this is a vast oversimplification, but I'm kind of a dick that way. I also used to argue straight-facedly with my hip-hop fan friends that rap was invented by Deborah Harry.)
And although I wasn't consciously aware of it at the time, I'm sure that the third inspiration for my song was the show South Park, and in particular, the episode "Cartman Gets an Anal Probe".
Anyway, one night, while driving home on Nicolls Road and listening to a blues show on WUSB, the Stony Brook University radio station, I started making up lyrics to the song that was playing. Then I sang them again to the next song they played. And I continued entertaining myself all the way home in this manner. When I got home, I wrote down some of the lyrics I'd made up, and that's how my one "greatest hit", "Alien Anal Probe Blues" was born.
Back to the Jones Crusher performance. Sean started playing - and for any of you guys who think Sean is "just" a punk guitarist, think again, because the man is a super talented musician. His love is punk, but he can play pretty much anything. He gave me an enthusiastic intro, as the rest of the band kicked in behind him. Then Steve started chiming in with this great harmonica intro. It was now or never, so I reached for my voice, fully expecting to hoc up a lung instead. But amazingly, it was there!
I could see a lot of people standing up front, and laughing. We played the song a little faster than I'm used to, but it was a raucous version that held the crowd's attention. Steve's harmonica solo was excellent (I never knew he played before tonight). A couple of times, I had to go low instead of high -- could have been because of the cold, or could have been that my voice has dropped half a key over the last ten years -- but in any event, the song worked, so that's all I could have hoped for. When we finished, there was a great response from the crowd, and a chant went up for "one more song!" I jumped off the stage as quickly as I could, because I definitely didn't have another song, but I knew the Crusher would.
I'm embarrassed to tell you how much I enjoyed that. I'd like to be the cool guy, and just play it off like, "It was all right", but I'd be lying. After a rough week (and a rough year), I have to admit that performing my song with Jones Crusher and having it go over well really cheered me up immensely. (I'm also a little embarrassed that I devoted about six paragraphs of this write-up to my dopey alien song, and about one paragraph each for the bands that actually knew what they were doing. But not so embarrassed that I'm going to delete them. That's the benefit of it being my blog.)
Crusher played their one last song, as I made my way back to gather up my jacket and my water bottle. (That's right -- I started out drinking Diet Coke, the switched to bottled water -- because I live on the edge, baby!) I said my goodnights to Steve, Sean, and the band. There was another band scheduled to play the last set of the night -- and a pretty good one, from what I hear -- called Flake. But I had promises to keep, as Robert Frost would say. So I scooted out to my car, drove back home to Patchogue, and got my son's friend where he needed to go.
Anyway, thanks to Sean and Jones Crusher, Steve Beery, The Filthy Twolips, and Chesty Malone and the Slice 'Em Ups, for a fun night of music.