Thursday, April 22, 2010

If You Fuck With Me, I Will Eat You

Well, since it's been way too long since I posted--Jesus, two fuckin' weeks?--I guess I'll just talk about last night's Bronx show, and try to throw together another blog soon, so as not to make another 15 mile long scroll fest, as usual.

Bought my ticket at the Independent box office window during the day and asked the guy, "What's your photo policy?"

"Photos are okay, just no professional cameras."

Hmmm. I have a Nikon D60. I like it. It takes swell photos. But it's not a legit professional camera, in that it didn't cost three grand for the body. So I asked, "What's a professional camera?," because I doubt they've got security going around asking people how many megapixels their camera has.

"It can't be an SLR with an interchangeable lens."

Suck. I went home and emailed Johanna Vater from Another Planet Entertainment, who book the Independent, and asked for a photo pass. I hadn't emailed her since I got laid off from the Guardian, a lifetime or two ago. She doesn't handle PR anymore, but set me up with Sarah Fink before leaving me with the discouraging words, "I don't believe passes are issued this late, day of a show."

I figured as much, but it never hurts to ask. It certainly didn't this time--the Independent's staff photographer couldn't make it, so they needed someone to take photos for their site's gallery. Photo pass secured! Swizz-eet.

Met up with Stevil and his lady, whose name I am perpetually doomed to space out on, at Mini Bar. Which is not to say I forget, but simply dis-remember. Memory problems run in my family, and it doesn't help that I see a thousand plus faces in a week working the door. Anyhow, she's fuckin' swell, as is Steve, as is Les who was bartending and servin' up bucket shots of Jameson.

When we got to the show, I was in a pretty tits mood, hanging out with people I rarely see, running into friends and the like, my hastily-wangled photo pass wristband on my right wrist. Mariachi el Bronx hit the stage, and I very courteously worked my way toward the center to get some photos. As I made my way in this lady in a Dropkick Murphys hoodie, hereafter to be referred to as "the haggard old bitch," or HOB, taps me on the shoulder and says, "You just cut in front of her," at which she points at a girl who seems not the least bit interested in being stood up for. In terms of "cutting in front of her," I was no longer standing in front of her when I was made cognizant of my indiscretion, so it really made no sense to say shit at all, except that this woman was pinched. I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled and started taking photos. A song or two in, I turned and looked at the girl who I had horribly wronged and asked her, "Are you all right? Can you see okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks," she said and smiled.

I turned back around and felt a tap on my shoulder. This baldhead, stocky Mexican guy who was with the haggard old bitch and the horribly wronged girl looked at me, all tough guy grimace, and pointed to his girlfriend who was standing right in front of him and not directly behind me at all, and said, "She can't."

"Well, sorry about that," I replied and scooted to the side to avoid the whole quagmire.

Now, I understand that a mariachi band in embroidered pants as on the stage, but nonetheless, it's a punk rock show, not a Neil Diamond concert, right? There is no assigned seating, obviously I've got some kind of quasi-legit mission going on here with my camera. I went to my first punk rock show when I was 14. That's nearly 25 years ago. If you want to go in the front, you go in the front. If you don't, don't. But don't try to fucking regulate on everyone else's good time.
After Mariachi el Bronx, I got a beer, talked to my homey Iain, and went back up front for Violent Soho, who are a perfect band to tour with the Bronx, since they're named after a New York neighborhood but are from Australia, just as the Bronx are named after a New York borough but are from LA. Go figure.

Of course, the HOB glares at me as I step past her. Eh, whatevs. I let it go.
Touch me.

Things don't come to a head until the Bronx proper come on. The bitch pushes me in the small of the back and says, "Go take your pictures somewhere else!" Which was my intention, as given the option to stand next to one of a few hundred happy, half-drunk punk rockers, why the fuck would I stand next to you, you constipated cuntface? So, on my way elsewhere, I turned and said, "Why are you so angry? What have I done to you?" At this point, the Mexican Superman, who had been wearing one of those skull-face bandannas over his nose and mouth, border raider style, ever since Violent Soho's set ended, stepped up and said, "You're on their jock. You want to suck their dicks."

This was really annoying at the time, as I recall. However, sitting at my computer completely sober, I find it baffling. The primary reason that people photograph musicians--or anyone else, I assume--is that they're trying to fulfill sexual desires? I mean, it's certainly worked wonders for Terry Richardson, and if I were surrounded by nubile, young, fashion models, eager to please in any career-forwarding way possible, well, it might even work for me. The spirit is willing, but flesh is ever-so-weak. I had never before considered myself to harbor deep-seated homoerotic yearnings for the Bronx. Who knew? I believe I said something to the tune of, "Oh please. Why do you have to hate on me because I'm doing my thing?"

Anyhow, at this point, the pit started going off, so I focused on trying to get a decent shot and not have my lens broken off. I got my favorite shot of the evening, a guy in mid stagedive. A very nice girl offered to watch my bottle of Anchor Steam as I worked, for which I offered her a sip. Stevil flew past me, mid air. Shit got a bit hectic for composing pictures--now I see why people bring inordinately long lenses to shows--so I cut out and snapped some shots at the edge of the stage. At a certain point I had to get into the action, so I snuck over to coat check, put my camera in my bag, and entered the fray by boosting onto the stage at the corner and boosting off in the middle.

I don't go in the pit at many shows. I have to be really into the band. Motörhead is a given. The Jesus Lizard reunion show in LA had me fuckin' drenched in sweat, bruised, and bloodied. And, as fate would have it, I have punked the fuck out at the occasional Bronx show.

Let me explain what I mean by "punking the fuck out": I am not on a chest-beating jocko homo weightlifting American Gladiators trip. Ever since I was a wee tot, I've considered the Shawn Kerri-drawn Circle Jerks logo as the epitome of skank-itude.
The denizen of the pit must have style, just as much if not more so than the subgenius must have slack. I'm not a dancer. It makes me feel uncomfortable, standing there, moving, with people looking at me. To quote Bowie: "We can't dance, we don't talk much/ We just ball and play/ But then we move like tigers on Vaseline." When I'm in the pit, I'm like a tiger on Vaseline. It's my time. I'm in the zone, "that magical place where mind and body work in perfect synch and movements seem to flow without conscious effort." It's a Zen thing. I also feel stupidly harmonious with all the other people whirling like drunken dervishes, half mad on the sound. I do a lot of random hugging and back-slapping--which does sound somewhat akin to the jocky homoeroticism of the NFL ass-pat--but a bonding occurs amid the sound and the fury. All the bullshit is washed away as everyone aggressively gets their groove on.

This said, if you fuck with me while I'm in the zone, I'm going after you. Not in any kind of violent, militaristic kind of way, but I'm going to let you know, "Don't Tread On Me." You see it a lot at shows--big, buffed out dudes that have never been to a punk or metal show and either don't know that it's not about hurting people, or are just scared so they overdo everything. They stand on the edge of the pit and try to knock people down. When I'm feeling it, I couldn't give a fuck how big or supposedly intimidating you are--if you get a cheap shot on me, I'm going to mob you up, dig my elbow into your ribcage, and smile in your face as I grind you into the floor. After that, we're good. We're friends. We're lifelong amigos--just realize that I'm here to have fun and not to be your karate opponent.

You can see where this is going, right? Some fucking homophobic, Sir Galahad, anti-art, suburban tough guy in a Skeletor mask is bound to see my wildly grinning bald head all up in his grill on a very regular basis. Every time I go around that circle, I'm going to find you and cozy up my elbow into your baby backs, just to let you know that you're not regulating shit, asshole.

So, that's basically what I did. I styled out, got my skankin' guy on, and fucked with dude every chance I got, just to see what he would do. I'd come flying into him, mash him into the stage or the floor, then smile and pat him on the back of the neck and yell something asinine and overfriendly like, "Yeah, Buddy!" Like, here it is, man. I'm feeling it. If you want to be tough, just how fucking tough do you want to be? I yelled in his ear: "When I was little I was afraid of Santa Claus!" (This, I think, may be an embellishment, as I have no recollection of being scared of St. Nick, though it seems pretty common. I know Dolly was scared shitless of sitting on some fat, hairy guy's lap when she was little--kids know what's up.) "You're about as scary as Santa Claus!" I screamed, then dove off into the melee. I mean, really--you're going to pose in a skeleton mask and that's, like, freaky or something? You fucking threepenny asshat. You, like Santa Claus, are a motherfucking myth. You're a character. You only exist in your own head.

At the end of the show, singer Matt Caughthran announced that the band would be leaving for Europe the next week, and when they came home they were going into the studio to record an album, so we wouldn't be seeing the Bronx for a long time. He asked everybody get up on stage and sing or stagedive and, you know, generally go nuts. And then they launched into "Heart Attack American." Jesus Lizard fans will know that David Yow called their song "Mouth Breather" the "retard activator," because whenever they played it, shit got real retarded. Well, if the Bronx has a retard activator, it's "Heart Attack American." My plan, loosely construed, was to become a Down's Syndrome juggernaut. So, of course, I charged right over to my homie, Mexican Superman, off to the side of the stage protecting his chica and his Haggard Old Bitch from every perceived affront, and I wedged my arms between them and spread them asunder, like peeling apart a peanut butter, jelly, and super glue sandwich and proceeded to mount the stage like a cheap hooker. Much wailing from HOB. Methinks she doth protest too much. Finally, somebody grabbed my belt and tried to pull me off the stage. Still trying to regulate, sadly, even after the band themselves invited everyone up.

I turned and looked at Skeletor, his facemask hanging loosely around his neck now like a sad cowboy, and I elbowed that mothefucker square in the face. Right in his fucking nose. To which he muttered something like, "Hey man..." To which I grinned like a fucking psychotic cannibal before getting my stagedive on.

The moral of the story is: don't antagonize people you don't know. Hell, don't antagonize anyone. If you asked any of the other people at that show about the goofy bald guy with the tattoos, I would've come off looking like an avuncular, loveable-huggable anthropomorphized Care Bear. Pure sweetness. But that motherfucker had it coming, and he can be damned glad he sucked it the fuck up and shut his trap. "My style is impetuous. My defense is impregnable. I'm just ferocious. I want your heart. I want to eat his children."