Dark's Corner

Six Points Of View

I’m close to Death, I’ll eat Death–don’t you dare snatch those crumbs from my lips. I lost it in a public place today, but that’s getting ahead of the plot. My life is like a John Hughes script, complete with Ally Sheedy look-alike for a girlfriend, acquired in a dramatic fumble by a fellow musician. For Chrissake, I met her at a gig during which my band opened for his. A week later, the girl-who-was-to-be-married was mine and I had to see some of his bandmates at The Station in Fern Park this past Friday. These are situations that upset the kind balance here, the symbiosis that is the central Florida music scene. Politics on a level that can only be described as ambitious. It’s hard to be Swiss in Oh!-Town, especially if you’re a fairly large, moving target hiding in plain sight. The fewer waves of your creation, the fewer attitudes you’ll slam against while out and about doing your thing on a Friday night.

The Station gig was a special occasion–M4 Radio.com was celebrating 3 years of existence as a supporter of independent music. However, a death in the family kept M4 host Stammerin’ Banzai (a.k.a. Lance Stinson) from attending the festivities, a bitter irony. But his spirit was there as he sent a message through co-owner Stormy Harich that anyone not partying during the evening would have their asses personally kicked. The Station is a great venue for ass-kicking. When it re-opened last year, it gave all the three-quarter sleeved, long-haired, spike-wearing metalheads someplace to don the shit that they bought in 1982. On any given night, there’s enough leather to make a PETA volunteer blanch. They’re also cheap as hell, making the bands pay full price for beer. Cheap motherfuckers, for what they’re charging at the door and the bar, there ought to be a goddamn deli tray backstage. Ach! Mollen zie danzen mit mir oder drinken bier das nacht. Wow. Nikki, the fetching blonde lead singer for opening band Lucid Fly has a refreshingly goofy personality for a girl that looks like a porn star and belts out sweaty rock tunes with a brassy solidity. “Get A Life” hosts Melissa Foxx and Mimi Mouse were there to introduce the bands and also tout their new partnership with the internet radio station. Deroot played next and their anger-rock attack whipped up an instant mosh pit that kept the bouncers fairly busy and ultra-alert.

Seasons Of The Wolf had chartered a party bus for $600 and loaded it with fans and booze for the drive North to Orlando. It was this collective that had the most dramatic sub-plots. Under-age guitar techs not allowed in, devoted band friend without ID, lead singer Wes cracking his head open on-stage and bleeding profusely for the rest of the set, and this happened to a band that had to cancel their last gig at the venue due to the drummer’s having been bitten in the genital region by a poisonous spider. The spirited guy in the wolf outfit who made his presence known all evening needs to be mentioned if not for the fact that his energy level could’ve powered Longwood for a night.

Bughead turned in a spirited performance, despite looking a little like they had just stepped into a Black Panther’s meeting while wearing klansman hoods. The line-up was a little odd, and reportedly, Deroot bitched about getting the last slot and demanded to play earlier; Bughead graciously volunteered their slot. Their appearance on the bill brought out the ubiquitous Mandaddy of Gargamel! fame and Will Walker, former owner of Will’s Pub at 1850 N. Mill’s Ave. Bughead didn’t play their seminal ode to the pub “Will’s (Theme From)”, will they play it at the new place?

Sure, I have to go there.

You don’t have to go there, but I choose to go there. I’m not sure what went down at Will’s, but basically–the guy who has been helping bands for three years at the little turquoise venue isn’t there anymore and a good number of bands, out of deference to Will, have encouraged a boycott of the place–which is owned by Will’s father.

This is probably more than any of you really wants to know, but the point is exactly that. Most folks who go to a club are there to drink, play pool and hear a good band. They really don’t care what goes on behind the bar. There are the locals and regulars who develop relationships with the club staff, but a good portion of business is focused at new customers, creating an ever-growing list of clientele. Many felt that Will’s was too cliquey to be mainstream, and on certain nights where one of the self-described “family” bands played (i.e. Gargamel!, Bughead, Kow, Princeton’s Guff, etc.) the air of exclusivity to some people seemed stifling. Then again, it was a haven for bands that needed someplace to call home when the focus of Orlando was theme parks and theme parks. When Walker was shitcanned, the employees all walked out and the elder Walker quickly hired replacements. This week, the combo bar and motor inn will re-christen itself “Will’s Place.”

Huh?

Now really, I can see the previously rumoured change, which would’ve been “New Loch Haven Pub” especially since it really is located in the middle of Loch Haven Park, why not focus on the locale? If it’s a definite “fuck you” between father and son, then that’s a real shame as Will is currently working on opening a club of his own. What will happen to bands that play at the Mills location, could they possibly be blackballed from the new Will’s? Considered as scabs crossing a union picket line? I was approached by Webb of Gargamel! at Barbarella one night and he inquired if Mohave had plans to perform at Will’s. Of course we had, I replied. To us, it’s a chance to reach more people and in modest ways, it’s also a meal ticket–we’re too poor to afford the luxury of declining gigs. We’ll play wakes and funerals, just pay us and listen to what we have to say. He laughed this off, but there was disappointment in his tone. What can I do to make everyone happy while still making myself happy, staying true to myself, can it be done? No. Fuck that and the whole concept. No ill will (no pun intended) is going to come into play, doesn’t matter if you like me or not–I won’t be a shitheel when we meet somewhere. Respect. True. I keep to myself, there’s no need to be in anyone’s face and I wait for them to come to me when they do. Be assured that the conversation is desire, otherwise, I stay in I’s business alone or with me lady when we’re out and about. It’s on the page that I explore the reef that we all feed off of. When it comes to the awkward position of taking this position or that–I used to opt for the safe, least traveled road of resistance. That effort gets you nothing in most towns. You’ll be misunderstood one way or the other, so why not go balls out pronto, bucko?

Sapphire Saturday night, if you read last week’s column–yes, we went to see Von Ra and opening act virginwool. We missed the band formerly known as Gumwrapper Curb, a signed entity that seems to be somewhat in limbo a good deal of the time. Drummer Brett Crook used to pound skins for local funkmeisters Big Shirley and is currently linked with guitar songstress Michele Lane. How very society column of me to drop that in there, but it was imparted as crucial information from Lane herself, looking peacocky in her boa and new blonde banged do. That was even more society-pagey, fiddle-dee-dee. My integrity will go straight to hell in a Jeep.

Oh, and the Nestle Quik cereal? How bad an idea is it to make the stuff look like little brown pellets when your mascot is a rabbit? They could’ve done something less obvious, this is a cruel joke being played by some ingenious product developer.

Von Ra kicked ass. I’ve been following the band since 1996, when it first formed and I became the first journalist to publish a piece on the acoustic-rock ensemble of Three Daves and a Vaughn. Four years later, the band has more attitude, a complex new rhythmic approach and a new guitarist, Chuck Shea. The standing-room only crowd at Sapphire ate up every lovin’ spoonful of the Von Ra set, which trotted out standby’s like “Drinker’s Hour” and the former SHE radio staple “Just Wakin’ Up.” What made them fresh was a renewed interpretation of each song, from new intro parts to re-arranging choruses and verses–it was a playful Von Ra that laid down the groove and the new material leans towards a more funky, less mainstream vibe. Good for them, the band that embraces change is the band that embraces longevity.

Orlando Weekly columnist Mark Padgett was there, casting surly glances in my direction. That guy does not like me and I can’t figure out why. I’m not the only one, there are others who get the “get away from me” vibe from Padgett. I just shrug and keep on keepin’ on.

There’s been some re-thinking of the whole concept of “Dark’s Corner” and how it was to be delivered. All the la-dee-da business of doing CD reviews and features needs to be thrown out with all the other conventions, scrapped for something less prosaic. So, I’m going slightly op-ed with this–plenty of real news and review, but a good deal of personal takes on a scene that frankly needs to be examined from all sides. With rags like Ink 19, Orlando Weekly, Jam Magazine, Ass-Kiss, I mean, Axis Magazine (don’t ask–it’s not my joke) the defunct Buzz, Fritz, the Weekly Planet, Focus and Connections (many others too, of course) working to develop the cultural muscles of this tourist state, there is plenty of copy that only shows how the media views the scene. Very little of that propaganda reflects what it takes to make the news happen, the truly behind-the-scenes motivations and manipulations that have already begun to cause rifts in this young Mayberry With Money that is central Florida’s crown jewel, Walt Disney Wacked.

Take for example, my desperate struggle to get paid by Jam Magazine. After corporate publishing whores Creative Loafing took the magazine over late last fall, a series of hirings, firings and overall design changes asserted the basic assumption that the rag wasn’t interested in the affairs of the local musician. But who did? The Orlando Weekly certainly was involved in coverage, but few CD reviews and more of a focus on civic and community affairs takes it out of the essential loop. Ink 19, not as broad an approach to entertainment, a basic rock-n-roll culture exudes out of the choices of video, film and music editorial. Sabrina Steen, who began Buzz as a big “so there” to former employer Jam, has disappeared from the Florida publishing circles and hasn’t been seen by a goodly number of folk for quite some time. One has to wonder. Axis caters mostly to the college crowd with major attention focused on fashion spreads and “where’s the best bar to drink at?” polls, along with editor Sean Perry’s futile attempts to define a scene by the national buzzwords that he hears spilling off of broadcast t.v. That and his vested interest as a manager of virginwool take away some of his objectivity when it comes to presenting his view of the scene. Padgett likewise pushes the band Precious whenever he gets the chance–it’s a God-given right to have these interests, as a journalist/musician, the line between covering the scene and playing the scene can become a cumbersome one–it takes a special something to retain a neutral, balanced point of view. Like the one that you’re reading, hah. Oh hah.

Upstart Connections has slowly and surely won a dedicated core of readers who were disheartened by the loss of Buzz and unsure of the changes going down at Jam. Though the zine had a predilection for putting nationals on the cover, they’ve tightened the aim editorially to deal with locals more. The Daily Planet is a Tampa Creative Loafing publication that is comparable to the Orlando Weekly and Focus is owned by the folks that run the State Theater. Fritz and In-Site are zines with a lower distribution and larger newsprint formats that put forth a strong focus on college culture–a lack of consistency in publication makes them slightly spurious.

So anyway.

I left Jam in January, unsatisfied where things were going–Matt Kelemen, formerly music editor of the Orlando Weekly, settled in and began trying to undo the damage that bonehead interim editor Eric Snider had wrought in his short tenure at the place. George Biggers, outgoing publisher/owner, should have never sought out an investor–the mag had a fighting chance before he became desperate and looked for an infusion of big cash. It’s always the corruption of the money that kills a good thing. In any case–it took four months for the Atlantian bastards to pay me a measly $205.00 for services rendered–meanwhile, I’m eating Top Ramen and Krystal burgers, using friend’s computers because I had no hard drive space for the little server tower that Lynn Finch so graciously assembled for me. Before that check arrived, however, Kelemen begged me to return to the fold as a reviewer because his main CD scribe, Richard Proplesch, refused to work with the magazine due to being screwed out of wages due him. I relented and began picking up CD’s from the offices to bail Matt out of a deplorable situation, believing that what was going down at Jam might eventually result in a decent enough outlet and resource for both musicians and folks in search of great music. What I got was a wall of work, chicken-feed pay and a serious lack of respect for a lowly freelancer. Creative Loafing employees get benefits, regular paychecks and vacation time, this I know because the aforementioned girlfriend is a card-carrying Creative Loafer. Freelancers are regarded as neccessary scum like Boba Fett in the “Empire Strikes Back.” It doesn’t matter if they get paid on time or not. This theory didn’t sit well with me, who needs every little bit and works on a more drastically lowered budget than your ordinary American Slave. While stopping by the Jam offices today, I was told that my request for $150 for services rendered would have to wait.

With a tour to plan, a stop in Ohio scheduled for next week, a new EP with requisite post-production expenses and a gig in Atlanta near approaching, this is not news that I wanted to hear. For a guy who hired me for my first paid writing gig, Matt knows where I come from–we’ve confided many things back and forth. He knows the path I’ve chosen and that $150 means a lot to me, more than the average corporate clone drone who has a mortgage and a car payment. He wasn’t going to take some 45 seconds to print out an e-mail, sign it and hand it to the manager in order to expedite my check processing. In fact, when I confronted him about it, he told me “get a job.” Nice. Told him that I had a job, professional musician and freelance journalist doing my best to get paid for my work. Asked him to “help me out” and he scoffed, “help you out?” while the rest of the office struggled to dummy up a copy of the next issue. Staffers lost themselves in work as I slowly grew angrier and began to display true colors.

“You got fucked,” I yelled at Matt, following him to his desk in the back of the former residence. “I helped you out, so how about returning the favor?”

“You need to get away from me,” he said, as if threatened. I wasn’t about to inflict bodily harm against this guy for a lousy $150 zackaroonis. Who cares? Poverty is my friend, music is my salvation, who needs money when you have a Zen-like support group and the tenacity to make dollars fall off of banana trees when the wind is just zippy enough? My point was, a short-term situation required the money and I wasn’t going to leave without his assertion that everything would be taken care of. How hypocritical to hold up the former editor as a shameful example of not paying his writers and then turn around to decide that not paying one of his writers was a better idea. I left the offices with a slammed door and regrets of blowing up in front of David, Shana, Jennifer, Tai and felt really wierd about yelling at Matt–whom I’ve always regarded as a friend and ally in the quest for cultural accuracy and love in this town, this Mickey Mouse town. At this point, the only next step is simple: if my check isn’t there on Friday at the offices on Wymore Road, I’m walking. It’s mostly principle–life’s too short to be taken for granted. And with Cinco De Mayo being the deciding date, that sort of independence rings with a trueness that is almost poignant.

Welcome to the corner, this is how it will be. Life’s too short to tread on crumbs and rice paper, one must leave an imprint–it’s the measure of our future, whether or not we learn the patterns while we can.

See you next week laddies and gentlewomen, be well, be wise and wary until then.


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