Part 1: 2000 |
The last Lampstand show (2000) exposed the hole in my life that could only be filled with the thrill of performance. Not knowing how much I had missed until that show, I just knew I could never go back to being silent. In the months that followed, the Kawai X20 from the pile that my brother brought to my house would provide me with the instrument I needed to light the world ablaze with my words.
the keyboard on the pile
Summer of 2000 I was living on Maryland Avenue with Mike Fuckin’ Stubbins, my brother Mike, and the Beat Machine.
the beat machine
The house was huge, three floors, big bedrooms, a basement, and a large downstairs room that would later prove to be an ideal space for gatherings featuring Davey G and the Keyboard.
The weeks BM and I spent getting ourselves psyched up for Lampstand had finally culminated in a fantastic last show, and now I definitely had the Bug. My music career had always taken a very sporadic route--2 years on, 8 years off, 2 years on, 3 years off…and this was after the 8 years off part, and I was hungry. Who knows what got into me the day I picked up the keyboard sitting in Mike’s beckoning pile of crap and just started playing around. Suddenly the idea just clicked in my head: what if I just wrote songs that went along with the keyboard pre-sets? I know that Wesley Willis had done it before, but what I was thinking of would be different: more coherent, funny, structured but simple, combining the elements of my writing with the element of performance. A tangental Rant.
So without really setting out to do anything more than amuse myself, I wrote songs. “I Will Kill You” was my very first, as it merely involved using a default preset, and it had a prop: a voice-changer kiddy horn that I had found at a table outside the deli where I worked. Others came, and slowly but surely I was building up my repertoire. “Drinking Beer at Grandma’s House” which would be my opening number for years to come, “Take Off Your Pants and Dance”, my closing number for years to come, and the absolutely inexplicable “Lotion” my penultimate song with the lotion-spewing climax. Truly, I have no idea where this song came from. My only real ideas are that since I am cursed with unbelievably dry skin (a condition I have only been able to manage within the last year) I had always been comforted by the constant presence of some kind of moisturizer. So in a backhanded way, I had written an homage to one of my favorite things, but I can tell you that there is no way in hell I ever set out to do that with that song.
Goofing around on the keyboard, plus recycling words I had written while I was in high school to write “When the Cream Goes Bad,” and “Bowl Games” and suddenly I had songs--many, many songs. And before I realized the potential of this new-found calling, The Beat Machine put it together for me, and offered to record my songs.
One night after work, we drank a case of beer together and recorded. And a little while later, after more songs had come to me, another night ensued, until all the tracks that would emerge on “Generica” were down. I felt like a new person--instead of just this guy who went to work and went to school and paid bills, I was something else. I was a low-budget songwriter, all because of my new partnership with my brother’s keyboard.
I decided that the time was right to share my music with the world, and so the Generica Release Party was born. September 2, 2000, I would play for whoever wanted to show up to inaugurate this new direction my life had taken.
The Generica Release Party in my living room on Maryland Avenue featured Mike Cookson doing comedy, the Beat Machine doing his one man show, and then me. 23 guests came, not quite sure what to expect. By later standards this show would be considered tame, but at the time it seemed really outrageous. I got up and debuted the act and played for 45 minutes. Many of the songs I did are lost to the ravages of time--many were just not really worth repeating. But people were supportive. I stood on the makeshift stage I had arranged out of pallets and went through all the material I had devised in the two months since the Lampstand show, and I had a secret weapon: lotion. A simple gimmick, but an enduring one: I sing “Rubbing lotion on my body, makes me feel so goddamn gooooooood!” and then splatter myself with lotion, rub it all over my self, and then sing again. “Rubbing lotion on my body, makes me feel so god-damn special!” And I do it again, the point being to push this gimmick to the maximum. And this time the Beat Machine grabbed the bottle and dribbled it on me, getting some on the keyboard (it has never been completely cleaned off) and my signature piece was born. Continuing, I played my closing bit, “Take of your Pants,” and TBM, drunk and rowdy, took the opportunity to remove his trousers and rip the panels from the ceiling. And as people laughed their asses off (and as we laughed many times later when watched the video of that night) he took a framed picture that had been hanging on the wall…and bashed it over his head.
Truly, an unforgettable debut. Had it not gone well, that might have been it. As it turned out, it was the first of many shows at the house on Maryland Avenue. And it was the first of many more outside the house.
On to Part 2!