Angry At Life
by David Lee Beowulf
I’ve been pretty silent in Ink Nineteen about all the amazing “stuff” polluting the world of late, from the Starr Report, to Iraq, to terrorism, to crackdowns on personal freedoms, etc. There’s a couple of good reasons for it, too. 1) I have strict word-length limits on articles, and 2) it would get boring fast; we have a different feature theme and, even though it seems like sometimes we’re uncannily timely, I prefer to keep to the assigned topic. All that will change, now that Ian’s turned me lose with this column!
Screw politics! Let’s inaugurate “Angry Ink” with a bit of venting, shall we?
So last Saturday, the 14th of November 1998, my pal and coworker Howard and I decide to venture over to Life (a venue/disco) on Bleecker and Thompson in Greenwich Village to catch guitar legend Leslie West. Leslie West was the front man for the very heavy (literally) pre-metal Woodstock-era band, Mountain. Now, my pal and coworker Howard is kind of an old fart who falls into the “it’s too loud, because I’m too old” category (he walked out of a Judas Priest show last February because it was “boring”). Funny, apparently he’s a big fan of Cream, Jimi Hendrix and others from his era and if memory serves me correctly, those artists frequently went to eleven nine times out of ten.
Anyway, so my pal and coworker Howard hears Leslie West on Howard Stern last week (Stern’s favorite band of all time is Mountain and he’s had Leslie West on the show every now and then over the last fifteen or so years) and, knowing that I, David Lee Beowulf, like seeing insane live music, mentioned it to me. Well, I’d known about the show for a month since it was advertised in the Village Voice (which is unreadable trash -except for the music ads) as featuring the return of Black Oak Arkansas to New York City.
Dude, I’ve been interested in Black Oak Arkansas since I was a “kid”! I first caught wind of them in the Bethesda, Maryland Woolworth’s on Wisconsin Avenue and Meadow Lane (it hasn’t been there since 1983, I think) back around 1975. In their record area they had a few copies of Raunch and Roll, which was a live album by Black Oak Arkansas. On the cover was the singer, all covered with long hair and drool, with a scary, evil grin on this face. The album was on Capricorn Records, whose symbol was a goat (naturally), and this I took to be some sort of “Satanic” connection with the band. Being an impressionable, sensitive child, I began to have wide-awake nightmares in the store, and instantly labeled, to myself, the band as a bunch of “heroin addicts.” (Between 1971 and 1976, all long-haired people who were at least five years older than I were “heroin addicts.”)
End of Black Oak Arkansas and me part one.
Later on, in the fall of 1981 (I was eighteen), I was conversing with some college pals in the dorm and my buddy George started talking about “devil music” and “heavy metal.” Now by this time in my life, I was heavily into British punk rock, primarily the Sex Pistols and the Clash and, although I’d been through my KISS “phase” the whole Satan = Metal thing had completely by-passed me. My cousin Rick, also my age, though, caught it full-force: he was big into Judas Priest, Rush, Van Halen and even Black Sabbath. Rick did time at a Baptist high school in Anne Arundal County, Maryland and had one of the teachers call him a “Satan worshipper” because he liked KISS.
ANYWAY, so George is telling me about all the devil connections with metal and such, all of which I didn’t believe at all, even though I’d seen the Exorcist, alone, in a movie theatre two years earlier. And I liked horror movies, too. I think that, from 1980 to 1982, I put aside things I thought “childish,” like really being into horror movies and stories, in order to impress girls with my “maturity.” Didn’t work, of course (now, at age 35, I impress them with my “immaturity” which does, in fact, work).
Right, so I am trying to dispense with George and his stoopid ideas about Satan and heavy metal. Coincidentally we were in Jim’s room (I don’t remember Jim’s nor George’s last names…) and Jeff had a real record collection. When I mean real, I mean, he brought with him, to college, about five hundred records. And in his collection he had the full catalog of Black Oak Arkansas! So George pulls out their album Race With the Devil, featuring, on the cover, the long-haired blonde lead singer in a horse race with death! “Devil Music!” screams George!
“Bullshit,” I said, noting that what appeared to me as the “hardest” song on the record was “Not Fade Away,” the version of which I thought, at the time, wasn’t very good (I was a music snob back then: if it wasn’t clearly punk, I didn’t like it).
End of Black Oak Arkansas and me part two.
Back to 1998. Anyway, since I’ve shed my music snob personality years and years ago (I’d say around 1983) I remembered how scared I was by Black Oak Arkansas and, man, I wanted to see them boogie on stage with their mixture of the Allman Brothers and Black Sabbath!
So, my pal and coworker Howard is really happy that he can hang out with me and catch Leslie West, his hero. For us both, it’s a win-win situation.
OK, so we plan to meet at six pm at the corner of Bleecker and Thompson. And, my pal and coworker Howard does, in fact, show up at six and says “what’s up, stud?” Fuckin’ A, Howard, DON’T come up to another man in Greenwich Village, grab my ass and say “what’s up, stud?” unless you’re prepared to follow-through with it… Sheesh!
Now, Life is, in my correct opinion, the worst venue in New York City. Let me clarify: there are good venues and bad, regardless of size. I’ve had excellent show experiences in cramped, tiny clubs and I’ve had absolutely terrible experiences in the biggest, most comfortable places. For those who know central Florida: say a place like Club Spacefish vs. The Beecham Theatre. At Spacefish (gone, thanks to G. G. Allin) you could see great shows even though the place was really small, same with a little NYC club like the St. Marks Bar – or smaller! At the Beecham, even if you were first in line and had advance tickets, you had no idea whether or not the bouncers were going to let you in, and, dude, if you were scheduled to interview the band, they didn’t even know bands played there!
My first brush with Life came in April 1997 right after Pat Boone released his “metal” album. In the Village Voice I saw big news: “Pat Boone will perform songs from Pat Boone in a Metal Mood at Life !” Man, I had to see Pat and get his autograph for my dad (which I did, but…)! What a goof.
So, the first thing to do is find Life. I’m not too knowledgeable of the west Village, since most of the punk rock happens in the East Village (CBGB’s, Coney Island High, etc.), but the address for Life was printed in voice, along with their phone number. Now, apparently Life is somewhere on Bleecker between Thompson and McDougal. Frankly, I disagree. I couldn’t find the place and I literally scoured that block. I even had to call the venue and ask if they had a number or something on their door to mark where the club was! They had no signs, no marquee, no number, nothing. Well, almost nothing. There were these big metal doors the woman I called told me about… Eventually, I actually to find the place, whose doors are now open. It’s about seven o’clock at night and I notice there’s a small line of about five people in their, I’d say, mid-twenties, waiting outside. Additionally, there’s a very large, well-dressed, athletically-built, handsome, and gruff African-American man at the door who, no doubt, is the bouncer.
Since I’m well-experienced with idiots running the door at clubs, I say nothing to this man and go over to the line. I find out that yes indeed, they wanted to see Pat Boone.
OK, now, the advertisement in the Voice said nothing regarding when the show would start. It did, however, state that it was twenty bucks to get in. Hey, I figured, twenty bucks to see pat Boone sing “Holy Diver” was a bargain!
However, it turns out, and this was verified by the bouncer, that a) the doors didn’t open until ten pm (three hours from then) and b) Pat would only be singing two songs. Two words: FUCK THAT. However, it had a happy ending as I caught up with Pat after his sound check and had a brief conversation with him, got his autograph for my dad AND handed him two copies of Ink Nineteen.
The next experience I had with Life was last May (or was it June or later) when Gail Worley was modeling clothes at a fashion show benefit held there. The benefit started at around eight o’clock but the Creatures (i.e., Souxsie, et al.), in their latest incarnation, were performing their as well. Thus, imagine my amazement at the enormous line outside the club! How in the world am I going to get into the place?
Well, after about fifteen minutes one of the bouncers comes out and tells everyone who’s there to see the fashion show should go around to the side entrance… You’d think they’d of had a sign…
Regardless, I make it inside and it’s a nice place, but poorly laid-out (it was very difficult to see Gail and the others parading around in exotic underwear) and they were selling bottled beers for six bucks minimum. As an aside, you can get Rolling Rocks anywhere in the East Village for $3.50, which ain’t bad considering…
OK, now, up to the “present.” Well, not yet. Last Wednesday, the 11th, my favorite punk rock band, the Dickies, were playing, guess where? Right: Life . And of course the doors didn’t open until 10, there were two opening bands. I had to blow it off. I’d be unfit for work Thursday morning and, well, why Life? Shit! Argh!
The Leslie West show is advertised as “doors 7 pm, show 7:30, prompt.” Which they do not. The “doors” opened at 7:15 and the show didn’t start until 7:50.
BUT, before that, my pal and coworker Howard and I get in line with all these “old farts,” one of whom told us he’d seen Black Oak Arkansas open for, of all bands, Three Dog Night, a million years ago. I remember my dad calling Three Dog Night “horrible people” back when I was eight years old and saw them in a magazine…
ANYWAY, so we’re in line and it starts to move… I figured that the show would cost twenty bucks and, even though Raging Slab was opening -meaning I should have been able to score guest list status somehow, I didn’t bother since, hey, it’s Life and I know they’re dicks and would probably lose my name… Besides, it would be a good show, eh, twenty bucks hurt, but not that much.
Wham! We get to the door and some dude from Long Island and wearing a football jersey starts yelling. “Black Oak canceled. I want my money back.” I noticed that he, and his two companions, had purchased advance tickets, something I elected not to do since a) you couldn’t buy them at the club the day earlier (I tried) and b) Ticket master throws on an extra five dollars per ticket. Hey, I’ll pay twenty-five bucks to see the Ramones (I will and I have!) in a large venue, but not this show in a small place.
This dude from Long Island (you can tell by the accent) is unrelenting in his quest for a refund (which he rightly deserved). How he found out, I don’t know: the bouncers he was arguing with had this look, to borrow form C.S. Lewis, “appeared as though all judgement had been suspended,” and seemed to be oblivious to the fact that someone would want his money back because the band he’d paid to see wasn’t playing.
Folks, the LAW is that you must be offered a refund if the act advertised on the tickets isn’t going on. At the last Iron Maiden show, WASP canceled and, even though Dio jumped on the bill as the replacement (dude!), the usually-stupid people running Roseland had a remarkable flash of insight and posted a huge sign at the door proclaiming that WASP had canceled and refunds were available at the ticket counter.
The creeps running Life had no idea that they should do the same. A hell of a lot of people came to see Black Oak Arkansas and plenty paid in advance, too. Come on!
The club did, grudgingly so, refund the dude’s money (“who gives a FUCK about Leslie West” was his triumphal comment.)
However, my pal and coworker Howard and I came to see both Black Oak Arkansas AND Leslie West, so we went in anyway.
OK, so we’re in the place, which is al columns and smoke machines and I had one six dollar bottle of Heinekan. I didn’t tip the bartender and she was somewhat miffed, can’t figure it out, me. I paid twenty bucks to see two bands and now I’ve given you six dollars for a beer. You want more? Hey, work at CB’s.
So Raging Slab comes one and they’re pretty good. They play raging backwoods groove metal and have a good hellbilly gimmick going. A good band to open for Black Oak Arkansas…
Hey, who’s this? Why Todd Youth, formerly of Murphy’s Law and now of D-Generation comes up to me and says “hello.” Todd’s got a new band on the side, called Chrome Locust. They’re playing at the Continental on December 5th, according to him they’re “heavy and powerful.” They recently played with Nebula, so I’m going to check them out.
About half an hour later, with no mention over the PA that Black Oak Arkansas has canceled and the room full of balding middle-aged men and their wives (no doubt they were all quite hip back in `71) Leslie West comes on stage and he shreds. His voice is remarkably clear and full of power. He played, of note, a raging version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile,” “Nantucket Sleighride,” “Theme From an Imaginary Western” and I think it was “Fire In the Hole,” but I’m not a Mountain expert. My pal and coworker Howard at first thought the guy on stage was someone else, due to the absence of hair and potbelly… Later on, toward the “end” of the show some dude with a bad “seventies” hair helmet got up on stage and sang “Mississippi Queen” which was quite heavy.
Then, and I didn’t believe this, Simon Kirke from Bad Company and some dude from Rainbow (the keyboard player, I’m not knowledgeable of them) take the stage and the band performs Free’s “All Right Now,” Bad Co.’s “Superstar” and Spencer Davis’ “Gimme Some Lovin’.”
I wanted to puke! That’s the kind of shit guys in bands when I was in high school tried to play! Gag! I just paid twenty bucks to hear AM radio hits!
Thusly, I righteously thrust up my hand with middle finger and shouted “Fuck you, hippie!”
All in all, though, I’m glad I saw Leslie West. But I will never see another show at Life and I urge any and all bands/people to boycott the place forever.
On Sunday the 15th, I caught the best new punk rock band in the world, The Bullys at the Continental. Before their set I approached Joey Lanz, their singer, and said “hi.” First thing out of his mouth: “you missed a great show last Wednesday at Life, man. The Dickies were great!”
And that’s the first “Angry Ink.”