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Mike Randle


A. Lee glows in Brooklyn — by Mike Fornatale
December 4, 2003

Some of us woke up earlier than others — specifically a few String Goddesses, who got up early enough to sashay across the parking lot and into the waiting arms of the IHOP someone had planted there.Drat. I should have gotten up earlier.I’ll draw a line in the sand here: I loooooove IHOP.And Denny’s.And Perkins.I love ALL those places.And now here I’ve outsmarted myself with my OWN demands that we leave at a reasonably early hour, and cheated myself out of one of those “Colorado Omelettes” which contain fifty-eight different kinds of meat, some of it from other planets.Grrrrr.I COULD have gone over to the IHOP, I suppose, but I didn’t want to rush.So I figured I’d just go down to the lobby with the rest of the stragglers, and see what THIS fine establishment has in its little Courtesy Breakfast area.(Of course, after last night’s stunning dispIay of hospitality, I am picturing Annoyed Coffee, Stale Angry Muffins, This-Place-Is-Too-Good-For-The-Likes-Of-You Bagels, and of course “Surlyburgers.”)

But first, a surprise is waiting when I draw the curtain back. Snow. What??? It’s OCTOBER.I’m only four and a half hours from home! There’s about half an inch of slushy wet stuff on the ground and plenty more a-comin’, apparently.The local TV news says that the storm is moving West and South.Oh good.I’ll be driving a big unwieldy vehicle — West and South.

Okay, so it’s all the more important that we leave soon.I note with some disappointment that Uncle Surly is no longer at the desk.Too bad.We’re checking out and it would have been nice to cause him some further irritation if possible.’Cause, see, your Surliness Quotient hasn’t really been tested till some fuzzy-headed guy with glasses from New Jersey has ACCIDENTALLY dumped a cup of coffee down the front of your pants.But this’ll have to wait.Forever, maybe.

It now comes to my attention — NOW, on the last day — that there’s a problem with the van.The back row of seats is not properly tethered down, and has a tendency to actually slide back and forth on its adjustable track whenever I hit the brakes.So I goes out, I goes, in the nasty wet snow to have a look.No good.The posts that hold it in place have been sheared off.So two or three of my human cargo will have to suffer with the random roller coaster.And my own suffering-to-be is worth noting, too, because I have no idea how this bleached behemoth is going to behave on a snowy highway.

So off we go.Paula takes the front seat, and all is not right.John Lee Hooker once described her present condition very well, even though he was talking about something completely different.”Because it’s in him, and it got to come out.” She’s in a foul mood, understandably….the kind of foul mood that can only be shed via a prolonged and satisfying bout of Reverse Peristalsis.I’m nervously eyeing my collection of toll receipts, iPod, book, and my small overnight bag — all of which are well within Technicolor Yawn Range, should such a thing take place.

Well, this time we’re following Pete, on city streets, and he promptly sails right on by the sign for the Mass Pike.As I see him about to go past the ramp, I mutter out loud “Peeeeete……. Peeeeete……. Peeeeeee-terrrrrrrrr……” and the passengers, when they realize what’s going on, get quite a kick out of it for some reason.Finally I just shake my head, turn onto the ramp, and take off, saying “Okay, good luck.” Much laughter from the back.No problem for me, I’m headed for my OWN city now.Besides, this particular service road parallels the highway and he’ll find his way onto it sooner or later.And we’re off.

Not long after we leave the city proper, there’s a “rest stop” — but it’s just that, no bathroom facilities or anything.I flirt with the idea of suggesting to Paula that she go paint the woods, as it were.But no — she probably would have done it and then I’d feel a tad less gallant than I usually do.We pull back onto the highway.

Interstate highways have two different concepts in Places To Stop — first, the official Service Areas (usually in the center island, serving both directions of the highway, but sometimes there are separate ones off to the right on each side.) And, inbetween these lovely oases, they put a sign up before each exit, telling you what sort of gasoline and what sort of food and what sort of hotellage are available within a short distance of each ramp.I always try to hold out for the Official Sanctioned Rest Areas, to save time, but this was one instance in which such a thing wasn’t advisable.So I headed off the highway at the next exit.We drove all the way through a cute little town, the name of which escapes me, and we had gone quite a ways with no visible form of relief.Finally, here’s a little mini-mall.There’s a supermarket and a little upscale coffee shop, among other things.Well, it’ll have to do.

I went into the supermarket and — yesss!! — they had cold bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper.Listen.I do not know why anyone on this planet drinks any other kind of soda.There’s just no point.And for some reason, in New Jersey you could get old wandering around trying to find the stuff.Oh, they have it in 12-packs of cans, in the supermarkets, but in terms of instant gratification it seems to be way down low on the scale.In most major cities, though, you’re okay.And here in Podunksitawny, Massachusetts, I scored.Kudos.

I went from there over to the little coffee place.Needed to use the men’s room, and figured that buying a cup of Designer Coffee was a small price to pay for that particular convenience.I elected to be perverse about it and got a chai latte.I’m a Budding Metrosexual! All I need now is a serious haircut, a whole new wardrobe and, um, less chest hair.I could keep these Soulful Brown Eyes though, I think.Um, was I talking about anything important? I’m afraid to go back and proofread it…..

That’s better…..I got back to the van, where some of the other folks were already waiting — having taken care of their own various businesses — and unlocked it.No sooner do I sit down than Paula vaults into the passenger seat like a happy puppy.Plainly everything came out okay. She had purchased a six-pack of ginger ale. Five of these bottles, along with a whole skipload of other flotsam, ended up being left in the van. The rest of the ginger ale is now here in my refrigerator, and I am drinking one now for inspiration’s sake.

Well, the van is behaving decently in the snow, and said weather is in fact soon over.Quickly we have another iPod epiphany.I put on the new album by The Pills — friends of mine, from Boston, and one of the greatest bands you’ll never see unless you’re luckier than you have any business being.So here’s a quick commercial message: http://www.pillsrock.com. Anyway: a goodly percentage of the captive audience shouts out “Who IS that?” That sort of thing always makes me happy….

We hit some traffic trouble going through Connecticut.I don’t want traffic trouble today.Originally I had been hoping I’d have time to stop home, which is “sort of” on the way.See, tonight’s show is going to be a bit of a challenge for me.There are Four bands on the bill.Love, the Chesterfield Kings, The Pleased (again), and — opening up the evening, very shortly after the doors open at seven — The Demands.Yup, the band I play bass in.No, I’m not a bass player really, I’m a guitar player, but there you go.Well, I wasn’t going to bring my bass and my stage clothes on this whole trip, no.So Wendy has volunteered to show up a bit early and bring ’em with her.Okay, fine — but if we’re significantly delayed by traffic I won’t be able to drop the band and orchestra at their midtown hotel first either.They’ll have to go to the venue, soundcheck, and THEN be taken to the hotel.Which means two things: 1) Pete will have to take them, because I’ll have to stay.Well, no big deal there.But: 2) There’s no way they’ll be able to get back in time to see The Demands.Thus, I don’t even tell most of ’em about The Demands.But never mind that little disappointment, right now I’m worried about even getting there at all.

Paula surprises me big-time now.I have just put on a pretty obscure (in America, anyway) record from 1986: “What Does Anything Mean Basically” by The UK Chameleons.She knows it.That was a shocker.

The rest of the trip goes pretty much without incident — except Heather has a moment of panic when she thinks she’s left her phone in a McDonald’s at a service area in Westchester.In which case it’ll be MY fault, because it was me using it, to call Wendy about the bass and costumery, you see.But no, it turns out the phone is just a bit deeper down in the purse than she thought.Somewhere between the Jurassic and Pleistocene Purse Strata, apparently.

And suddenly here’s Da Big City.This time of day, I figure it’s best to head down the West Side Highway and then across town on Bleecker.A little-known downtown-crosstown dodge, and it works well.Even those passengers that have been to NYC haven’t been here.Now I’m Tour-Bus driver.”……And directly in front of you, CBGB.” That was fun too.

Finally, Brooklyn, and we roll up outside Warsaw.About an hour late, thanks to the weather.For some reason Dan (the Monitor Mix guy, with whom I work at this fine establishment) decides to give me a hard time over this, and I am having none of it.Snow falls, you slow down a bit.That’s just the way it is, y’know? And I related to him in painstaking detail how much less he was being inconvenienced by this than I was.The Chesterfield Kings were already here — well, half of them were.One of them recognized me and introduced himself.He’s the new guy.He had been a member of Sundazed’s Non-Reissue Experiment, the Moviees.Good band.We had put them on at the Village Underground once.And I finally met Andy Babiuk, after all this time.We swapped Mark Lindsay War Stories.

Most of The Demands were already there.Jimmy had set up the lion’s share of his kit on the floor.And before you know it, here it is: the final sound-check.Chapple says “This is right where you were standing when we did ‘Old Man’ for the first time.” I dunno why, but that made my blood race a bit.Well, good.I had to sell this one hard anyway, brother — my peeps is in the audience this time.Unfortunately we only had time to do the standard two or three songs, and then we had to vacate for the Chesterfield Kings.But in those few moments when I opened my eyes between verses, I saw all the people in the other bands gaping at me like they were impressed.Babiuk in particular looked completely blissed.

The band and orchestra left for the hotel with Pete, after being advised to be standing on the sidewalk at 8:30 so I could pick them up and bring them back for the show.This was going to be interesting.I was gonna have to dive off the stage and right into the van.

Meanwhile, where’s Wendy with my bass and my clothes? It got to be just a few minutes before doors, and no Wendy.I kept going outside and looking for her.I just love situations like that.You have to beat back any creeping feelings of righteous annoyance — because, well, something terrible may have happened.But eventually, here she comes, tearing up the sidewalk wheezing and almost in tears.She had gotten lost on the way.Oh well.She was still there in time.I calmed her down, sat her down, grabbed my clothes and got changed.

The Pleased, of course, got screwed out of their sound check AGAIN.The Demands got a line-check, since we were setting up right before the doors opened at 7.While we were setting up, there was some drama.Rarely is there not any drama.Some of us are very high-strung.Finally I ended up barking at “some of us.” Gimme a break, now, if anyone has had an unusually stressful day here, it’s ME.But this too shall pass, and hey, dammit, we have a show to do soon. Originally, since The Demands had been shoe-horned onto the already-full bill (as a favor to me) we were supposed to go onstage no later than 7:15.We were willing.But Jon saw how few people there were in the room and kept pushing it back.That was rather large of him, as he was risking pissing off Arthur, who wanted to get onstage no later than 10PM.Finally we went on, at about 7:45.

And we played our little fucking hearts out too, to a wildly enthusiastic crowd (seriously) of about, I think, 28 people.At least 25 of whom were friends of ours.Welcome to Show Bidness!

I have no photos of this show, of course — so here are some other ones, so you needn’t strain yourself forming a mental picture.

I have one lead vocal, late in the set.It’s an obscure Mitch Ryder song.A few of my friends out there in the inky blackness have heard me do the choir-boy thing I use when singing Arthur’s parts, but they haven’t heard me howl like a possessed idiot before, and they seem affected positively.

So yeah, I missed the best part of any show, the after-the-set “You gaahhs are fug’n awesome!” glad-handing.And no beer.I have carefully and previously squirrelled away a can of Diet Pepsi in the van, which is parked about a block away, and I jump therein and speed off toward midtown to go get My Babies, who are on 46th Street.From Greenpoint this should take about 20 minutes.Ends up taking half an hour.Not bad.SItting in the van, on the way back, one of the String Goddesses notices I’m wearing the top half of a black funeral suit over a blue and black striped t-shirt and asks why I’m suddenly so sartorial (having seen me earlier, of course.) Randle explains, since he’s closer to the action back there than I am, and this is the first time most of them hear that they got cheated out of a chance to see “my” band.Bless their hearts, they are actually disappointed (which they maybe would have been anyway, and at least they got to take a shower.If they had stood up front and watched us, they might have needed ANOTHER shower.)

Anyway, of course, I missed The Pleased, and got back somewhere in the middle of the C-Kings’ set.They sound a lot better these days, more like they used to, before that strange Metal Ramones phase they went through.Didn’t like that.At Warsaw they sounded a lot more faithful to the early 80s guys we all remember so fondly.

Apropos of nothing, by the way, am I the ONLY person who thought their movie was a hoot? We Nouveau Garage fans, collectively, seem to have no sense of humor whatsoever when it comes to anything connected to our music.We can watch a badly-acted badly-filmed campy Japanese Kung Fu movie and say it’s brilliant art.Yeah. But when the Chesterfield Kings make a badly-acted badly-filmed campy movie, apparently it sucks.Why is that? I don’t agree with that attitude and I don’t like it.It was deliberately bad, deliberately over-acted, and charming as hell.I was at the first NYC showing, at that little art theater next to Two Boots.It was not long after 9/11, as I recall.You would think, with that acrid smell still in the air, that a bunch of garage fans would get a kick out of that film.But noooooo.They filed back out of the theatre all glum and annoyed, like they had been cheated out of a day in their lives.Whatever.

Well, yeah.They finish and I’m back onstage, moving amps around.THEIR amps.I am triple-duty man at this show.And this third part of it is a freebie.But it just makes sense to get all their shit off the stage ASAP to have more time to comfortably set up all the Love Stuff.(Hey, what kind of show IS THIS exactly, mister???) I handle the guitars, amps and drums (with help from Daddy-O) and Pete supervises the placement of String Goddess Thrones.

Done.The band is all downstairs now, waiting, and I go up to get Arthur.At the risk of repeating myself once too often, getting the star from dressing room to stage at the Warsaw is an interesting proposition, rife with potential difficulties.The Last Mile is a vulnerable wander down a staircase, through the bar, through the next room where they serve the food and keep the merch tables, and through a little door up to the stage.If the star has fanatical fans, and there’s a lot of ’em, this can be troublet.But we never seem to have any major problem with it at this place.

So it’s just me and Arthur in the dressing room, and for the first time we have something resembling an actual conversation without the Sword Of Damocles hanging over it.Not that I was ever worried, but maybe I should’ve been! The gist of it, anyway, is that there is one thing and Only One Thing that Arthur wants from me, and that’s to keep hangers-on out of the dressing room after the show.Last December, when they were here for the first time, there had been a whole lot of “friends.” Maybe he remembered that, or maybe it was the last night of the tour and he just wanted to cool out afterwards.

“Just the band, then,” says me, wanting to be clear.

“That’s right, just the band please, sir.”

“What about Edgar?”

Well, we’ve discussed Edgar before, so I won’t go into it again.Suffice to say he’s a charming little son-of-a-bitch up to and including the first couple of drinks.But by the end of this evening there will have been more than a “couple” of drinks, and Dr. Jekyll will have left the building, as it were.Arthur is one of the few people who is always ready to be nice to the guy.But tonight he doesn’t want him up there, and says so.

“Fine,” sez me, with a smile.”You ready to go?” Yep, he was ready.”I want to thank you again so much for helping me out, sir.” What a joke, HE is thanking ME.Again. So down the stairs we go, through the bar quickly (it’s mostly empty, of course, because everyone has gone inside to stake out their spot in the crowd) with only a couple of glad-handings and a howyadoin’ or two.Into the second room, past the Kielbasa Lady (go on, laugh if you want, no charge) and through the little door up to the stage.I wait back there with him while the band goes out.I pull back the curtain, he grabs my hand and shakes it once and he’s out there.

Another brilliant set, although somehow it doesn’t seem quite as magical as Boston did.Well, it being a much higher stage, there was certainly no leaping out into the audience.The last guy I saw attempting that at Warsaw was Jeff Conolly of DMZ — just about two years ago, that was — and, in a word, OUCH.It would actually have been comical had there not been so much physical pain involved.He actually thought the crowd was gonna catch him.Ha! They parted like the Red Sea, and he hit the floor face-first.There was a truly awful minute during which he didn’t get up.But, finally, he was okay.Anyway, Arthur is a bit too smart to head over Niagara face-first, adoring fans or no, so he stayed up there.

I’m so intent on Doing My Job that, for a change, I forget to play The Edgar Game.The Edgar Game goes like this: 1) Will Edgar be thrown out into the street by security tonight? and 2) Well, of course he will, DUH, but how many songs will he last for?

The answers on this evening are yes and four.Not a good night for our friend Edgar.

Well, now I’m pretty much off the hook for keeping the dressing room clear after the show.Our security has already been alerted, and I now don’t have to deal with Edgar.So, I can do Arthur and the band a favor, get their stuff cleared off and packed up quickly, shovel them into the white van and get them outta here at a reasonable hour.I think.

Throughout the four shows, I haven’t had much of a chance to take pictures — especially of the String Goddesses, who are all the way on the other side. But tonight, I’m gonna do it. There’s no good way to get over there, once again, so it’s out the stage door, through the crowd, and through the door on the other side that leads to where the monitor board is.The Goddesses are right next to the monitor board, pretty much.So I managed to take several shots but from a really bad angle.I got ’em though.In action.

And suddenly it’s over, and the whole ensemble heads out and up the stairs.Into an Edgar-Free Zone.I would like to be up there with them, but there’s a bunch o’stuff to pack up, which we now do.

And unbeknownst to me, here’s what’s going on upstairs: Arthur and several band-and-orchestra members are up in the dressing room, decompressing/having fun/drinking up the rest of the rider, and in walks Andy Babiuk to tell Arthur what a great show he just put on, and I don’t know quite what happened next but Arthur displayed some annoyance at the appearance of an interloper in the dressing room.Violently, apparently.Oops. The guy asked me to do ONE fucking thing and I blew it.Well, I didn’t so much blow it as I made an educated choice and now I need to be re-educated……..

This was markedly different from the Joe Jackson Band show, back in the springtime.That band is a jovial bunch of geezers who are very welcoming sorts.But another well-known New York hanger-on had managed to blag his way into the dressing room and was making a total pain-in-the-ass of himself.I’m sure you’ve seen this particular sort of Trouble-Head — the guy who is not content with Getting An Autograph, but has brought with him every single LP cover, CD cover and 7″ picture sleeve the artist has every been involved in, from nineteen different countries, some of which the artist has never even SEEN, and asks said artist to autograph EVERY FUCKING ONE OF THEM one by one.The Artist is usually gracious, especially when he sees some of his own artifacts that he’s never seen before. BUUUUUUTTTT it only goes just so far. Joe had his own dressing room and the band had the other one.Our friend never got near Joe (I saw to that) but he was really bothering the band. Suddenly I found myself in the Spinal Tap movie, as Graham Maby looked across the room pleadingly, shielded the side of his face with one hand, pointed with the other hand, and, scowling, mouthed the words “Who IS THAT????”

But I digress.I’m down on the stage with Pete, packing up, and I don’t see any of the fireworks upstairs.Didn’t even find out about it till the next day.Oh well! We got the van loaded, I got no hang-out time (not that I should have, I had a job to do, but HEY! I PLAYED HERE tonight!!) and then we piled into the van to take the band back to the hotel……

Next time — or, last time 🙁 — Gettin ‘Em Home. Which is actually a way more interesting story than you’re probably thinking it is…….

Mike Randle


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