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The Grateful Dead’s notorious soundcheck from Summer Jam at Watkins Glen
06.22.2018
10:34 am
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It’s been said that one out of every three people aged 17-24 from New York and Boston was at Watkins Glen on July 28, 1973. Woodstock might have been the more iconic festival, but there was nothing quite like Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. And for some reason, much of what happened that day remains largely forgotten.
 
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized the Summer Jam, which took place in the town of Watkins Glen, New York, as the “Largest audience at a pop festival.” Over 600,000 people showed up to the event and there were only three performers: The Allman Brothers Band, The Band, and The Grateful Dead. For scale, only 400,000 people showed up to Woodstock. Event producers Shelly Finkel and Jim Koplik had previously promoted a Dead show in Hartford, where an onstage jam with a couple of the Allman Brothers took place. This prompted the formulation of Summer Jam and the event was organized by prominent Bay Area promoter, Bill Graham. Tickets for the show were sold for just $10, that is, until they capped-out at 150,000 and just stopped checking for tickets. It’s not called gatecrashing if the front door is left wide open.
 

 
Prior to the festival, the population of the town of Watkins Glen was approximately 2,700. Once the hippies started rolling in, however, businesses began to shut down and the local supply of beer and food seemingly disappeared. The traffic pileup headed toward the Grand Prix Raceway was so severe that fans ditched their vehicles and walked the remainder of the way. Concert Free Radio, a Hartford pirate radio station that disguised itself as a Canadian network for legal-purposes, broadcasted traffic and safety reports to the incoming masses. They also aired interviews with Bill Graham, Bob Weir, and live segments from the historic show. Many weren’t able to watch the concert due to the traffic, or simply because there were so-many-goddamn-people that no one could see the stage.
 

 
Even if you know absolutely nothing about The Grateful Dead, I’m certain you are aware that they are a band best enjoyed live. Even if “live” means by way of thousands of bootlegged (and otherwise) recordings of their sets from over the years. Many deadheads refer to the period surrounding Watkins Glen as being an exceptional one for their live performances. A valid sentiment considering it came just after Europe ‘72. The Dead played for between 3-5 hours at the Summer Jam and even made an appearance during The Allman Brothers’ encore for an impromptu finale.
 

 
But no one really talks that much about the actual Grateful Dead set of Summer Jam at Watkins Glen. It was during their soundcheck the day prior that has been viewed as almost mythical (for those real heads). Times were different back then and, although the one-day festival was scheduled for Saturday, thousands of fans showed up to the grounds days before. Soundcheck was to take place on Friday and Bill Graham allowed it continue, despite the growing crowd. The Band and Allman Brothers ran through a couple of numbers, much to the enjoyment of those actually there for the music. In true Grateful Dead fashion, Jerry & Co warmed up with two sets. Their soundcheck was nearly two hours long.
 
Among songs performed during the immortalized “Soundcheck at Summer Jam” were Grateful Dead favorites “Sugaree,” “Tennessee Jed,” and “Wharf Rat.” The most significant of which was one later known as “Soundcheck Jam.” The second set improvisational jam was entirely unique to this particular time-and-place at Watkins Glen and, as a result, its recording became highly sought after by The Dead’s audiophile, obsessive fanbase. The So Many Roads (1965-1995) boxset released in 1999 has since catalogued a recording of the performance, having made it widely-available for the first time since the Summer Jam. The entire soundcheck set from July 27th can be streamed here.
 
Listen to The Grateful Dead’s ‘Soundcheck Jam” after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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06.22.2018
10:34 am
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Jello Biafra and his father interviewed at the ‘Frankenchrist’ obscenity trial
06.22.2018
08:54 am
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Jello Biafra in court, 1987 (via Heather Harris Photography)
 
In December 1985, a Southern Californian teenager named Tammy Scharwath bought the Dead Kennedys’ latest album, Frankenchrist, from the Wherehouse at the Northridge shopping mall. Then her mother saw the poster of H. R. Giger’s “Penis Landscape” included with the record and lodged a complaint with the Los Angeles city attorney, setting in motion a series of events that culminated in the breakup of the Dead Kennedys and a 1987 obscenity trial for singer Jello Biafra.

The hysteria that surrounded rap and rock music 30 years ago is hard to imagine today, now that the anti-smut crusaders have elevated Mr. Obscenity himself to the White House, but the incoherent language of the reactionary right hasn’t changed much: at one point during the trial, in an ecstasy of outrage, the prosecutor compared H. R. Giger to the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez. (Biafra discusses the PMRC “porn rock” panic and recounts the whole ugly Frankenchrist mess from his point of view on his second spoken word release, High Priest of Harmful Matter.)

During the trial, the Canadian TV show The NewMusic sent correspondent Erica Ehm to Los Angeles, where she interviewed Jello and his father at the courthouse. How cool was Jello’s dad?
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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06.22.2018
08:54 am
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The perverse and the transcendent: An interview with Ron Athey
06.21.2018
09:27 am
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One of the great challenges of considering the work of a groundbreaking artist like Ron Athey is that we must consider how temporal and ephemeral his medium is.  Peggy Phelan wrote, “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance.” Athey’s artwork runs the gamut from actions at Club Fuck! and Sin-A-Matic to collaborations with performers like Rozz Williams and Vaginal Davis and includes multiple-hour staged duration pieces with a team. 

No documentation, audio recording or visual record could ever capture the drama or reverie achieved from actually attending a Ron Athey show but the existence of Catherine Gund’s documentary Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance (1997) is an excellent moving image tool to remind us how Athey altered the landscape of body modification, AIDS activism and performance art forever.

The Outfest Legacy Project is the largest publicly accessible collection of LGBTQ films in the world and was created specifically for the preservation and restoration of LGBTQ films. They will be screening Gund’s documentary in 35mm at UCLA this Friday in Los Angeles. Ron Athey and Catherine Gund will be there in person, as well as guest curator Zachary Drucker! Don’t miss out!

I thought this would be a great opportunity to ask Ron a few questions about his career and the film and other things he has been working on.
Please enjoy our conversation conducted via email this week.

**Heads’ up: the images contained are graphic. But they do represent some out of this world performance work, the likes of which we will probably never see again.**


 

I read an interview where you talked about growing up in a Pentecostal home in Pomona, CA and described the experience as an “apocalyptic opera.” While the links to ritualism, body focus/faith healing and automatic writing are clearly present in your various works, would it be fair to say that the romance of opera also plays a part in your constructions?

Ron Athey:I internalized all these images from the Book of Revelations and I think that even as a child I understood that they took on something else through the hillbilly gothic lens of Inland Empire revival meetings.  I had no experience whatsoever with opera as an art form until I was fully adult and out of home. But in this school program for smart ass kids, the MGM program (mentally gifted minors), I was taken to the Pantages Theater to see Timbuktu, a spectacular starring Eartha Kitt. This had a huge effect on my sense of drama.  But back to the setting of small Pentecostal meetings in storefronts, tents, private homes- the poverty and austerity of these settings was grim.  Being raised in a neighborhood that was half Chicano (the other half black), I felt the iconography and glamour of Catholicism on a very deep level. What I lacked at that age was any way to reach the rituals.

The film Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance (Catherine Gund, 1997) playing this Friday as part of the Outfest Legacy Project covers four specific works and before you began exploring solo work with the glorious Solar Anus. Can you speak to Martyrs and Saints, Four Scenes in a Harsh Life, Deliverance and Gund’s film?

Ron Athey:The torture trilogy was almost channeled material. The height of the AIDS pandemic intersecting with the intense coming of age of the body modification scene was double high energy. These were two audiences that intersected but were also very different. I understand that I experience everything important through the archetype. As soon as the sickness and death came into my reality, it personalized as martyrology. Now I knew with that level of glorification, it was important to grab ahold of the issues, the moral polarization of “good girls” vs. “nasty girls”. The distortion of Healing: understand it, not as a restoration, but as an evolution through the sickness. This led me to concepts like the trickster shaman for Deliverance, wherein Divinity Fudge played multiple faces of a Living Icon.  It was largely the same cast of performers through this era, and I work closely with Julie Tolentino. I think the staging of 8 to 25 performers wouldn’t have been possible without these skills! Martyrs & Saints was largely made of tributes of recent deaths (Cliff Diller, David Wojnarowicz) and owning that conviction to embrace the martyrology. Four Scenes was a refining of that St. Sebastian image, the Holy Woman who was largely based on Aimee Semple McPherson, and finally Deliverance, on the concept of healing and shabby shamanism.
 

 


This screening of Gund’s documentary for the Outfest Legacy Project is not the first time you have presented something with Outfest before.  In the early 2000s, you worked with Vaginal Davis and curated an event called Platinum Oasis. Would you talk about this a little?

Ron Athey: In 2001 and 2002 Vaginal Davis and myself programmed Platinum Oasis, 24 hour events at the Coral Sands Motel in Hollywood, just before its debauchery and changing times ended its reign as a crystal meth/gay hardcore sex palace. It was designed as an intervention on both the concept of the group art show, and on abject gay male space.  40 rooms, plus a stage straddling the pool and jacuzzi area.  This was a proper happening that triggered a lot of experimentation. Also the names are overwhelming and formed the repeating lineup of Bruce LaBruce, Kembra Pfahler, Slava Mogutin, Gio Black Peter, and had celebrity one offs, like Ogre of Skinny Puppy’s Japan porn room, Lydia Lunch’s tribute to the recently deceased theatre director Emilio Cubeiro, which included a slideshow of 1,000 self portraits of his own butthole taken throughout his life! Kenny Scharf drove up with his art-RV, and which happened to have members of the B-52s inside, Rick Owens designed a red toga which was custom sewn to attendees bodies in a “sweatshop” room. Ann Magnuson read from a Hollywood script that she should have gotten the part for, I could go on gushing but there was an incredible energy around this event. The hotel was donated, Outfest still had airline and hotel sponsorship, even with low artist fees we created something larger than the sum of its parts. And it was properly polymorphously perverse right up to the Sunday morning baptismal in the filthy bi-sexual jacuzzi, with Vaginal Davis in character as “I preach hate, my name’s St. Selecia Tate”.

Time and again, I seem to encounter variations of these words in reference to you and your work. What do they mean to you and how do you interpret them: Engage, Ecstatic, Extreme.

Ron Athey: How about enhance? I think, going back to the sacred, the passion play, the illustrated sermon, I don’t want to use my art time making commentary as everyday Ron Athey, about the specifics of the Trump presidency, and definitely not about the ‘art world.’ I have a deep impulse to find a higher state. Pure Immanence. Even the illusion of transcendence.  Experimenting with what sounds, sights, smells, vibrations change consciousness. I always return to that.
 

 
Growing up in Hollywood, I used to drive by Poseur and Peanuts all the time. Club Fuck! and Sin-a-matic were constantly on my radar. I know you probably have a thousand stories but do you have one story you can tell about a performance you did that was particularly inspirational to you at the time?

Ron Athey: I was lucky I was able to work through actions on these stages, for these demanding crowds. Its very different then how I see work constructed in the academy, you have to rise up. One piece I made for Leigh Bowery’s memorial event, The Trojan Whore, I kept developing. I did a version at Sin-a-matic and sitting front center were Budgie and Siouxsie Sioux.  I think it was about 1996. And it was a mummified enchanted body, corseted, bustled, boobed, and on a wheeled platform. Inside my genitals were “tucked” via surgical stapler, a two-meter strand of pearls keestered up my arse, and my lips were pieced inside out. When the pearls were removed (after I was placed in a wig and lipstick painted on the inside of my lips), the squeaky clean 2 meter double strand were looped a few times and placed around my neck. Afterwards, Siouxsie exclaimed, how on earth were the pearls so clean? Tricks of the trade.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ariel Schudson
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06.21.2018
09:27 am
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‘Entrées de Secours’: Experimental 1982 short film with DEVO, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and more
06.21.2018
05:35 am
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Devo
 
Entrées de Secours (Google translation: “Emergency Inputs”) is the work of French filmmaker, Jérôme de Missolz. From the late ‘70s through the early ‘80s, he filmed a number of notable acts at Le Palace, a Paris theater and the epicenter of the city’s underground scene. Using a Super 8 camera—and without any sort of formal credentials—he shot the Clash, the Cramps, Public Image Ltd., Richard Hell, Iggy Pop, and many others.
 
Iggy
Iggy Pop on stage (and wearing a shirt!) at the Paris Palace, 1979.

De Missolz eventually assembled what he had captured to make Entrées de Secours. During the editing process, he synched up unrelated audio—from the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, the Stooges, as well as ‘60s pop hits—with his Super 8 footage, and then manipulated the elements further. Finally, he blew it up to 16mm. The result was an 18-minute experimental work. In a 2010 interview, (roughly translated from French into English), de Missolz said his aim was “to transcribe the fury of the link between the electricity of music and the loss of identity in cities.”

Jérôme de Missolz died in March of 2016.
 
Jerome de Missolz
 
Entrées de Secours came out in 1982, and isn’t exactly easy to come by these days. As of this writing, the film doesn’t appear to be obtainable for sale in any format, nor is it streaming online. To further give you an idea of its rarity, its IMDb page doesn’t have a single rating or review. The short can be rented in its original 16mm form through a French distributor, Collectif Jeune Cinema (Young Cinema Collective), but that’s apparently the extent of its current availability.

A one-minute excerpt has been uploaded to Vimeo by the French collective, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of Entrées de Secours. DEVO are up first in the clip, then Siouxsie and the Banshees, plus some additional footage is incorporated. For the soundtrack, de Missolz used “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “96 Tears,” as well as some sound effects. The Super 8 visuals, combined with the unexpected audio—all shaped further by de Missolz—creates a dizzying effect. It’s all very strange and unreal.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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06.21.2018
05:35 am
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‘Hey, Hey we’re the Grungies’: Pitch-perfect ‘Ben Stiller Show’ sketch skewers 1990s Seattle


 
As the son of Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller—both alums of Second City—Ben Stiller was an early inheritor of the improv tradition that today is a key element of all big-budget comedies. Stiller’s career got an early boost after he wrote, directed, and starred in “The Hustler Of Money,” a remarkably dead-on and suitably high-octane takedown of Martin Scorsese’s 1986 movie The Color of Money, which appeared on Saturday Night Live when Stiller was just 21 years old. It took only a few years for Stiller to be running his own sketch show on Fox, a show that more than any other can be said to contain the originating DNA for the coming generation of comedy (which is now entering its dotage). The writing staff of The Ben Stiller Show featured not only Stiller but also Judd Apatow as well as Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, who would spearhead their own daffy sketch intervention called Mr. Show, which HBO fitfully supported for several years in the late 1990s.

In January 1992 Nirvana played Saturday Night Live, in a moment that cemented the status of grunge as the sorely needed generational response to the calcified pop scene in which the likes of C+C Music Factory, Paula Abdul, and Bryan Adams could dominate the charts. The first season of The Ben Stiller Show began in the autumn of the same year, and sure enough, it aimed its satirical eye at Nirvana and its Seattle cohort of Gen-X rock bands.
 

 
In “The Grungies,” the eponymous quartet, occupants of a single Seattle apartment, has the imprudently uncommercial practice of destroying its instruments onstage. Wearing flannel and Doc Martens (of course), Stiller’s “Jonsie” has the goatee of Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and (eventually) sings like Kurt Cobain, while the fellow playing the wordless goon “Tork” is assigned the task of adopting Cobain’s trademark blond mop of a hairdo. Stiller and Co. brilliantly adapt the Monkees TV template to land its barbs; the conventions of that show are mimicked with such loving perfection that one suspects the presence of a ringer—a hunch confirmed when Micky Dolenz himself materializes promising a pile of major-label cash.

Watch it after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.20.2018
10:37 am
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Freddie Mercury’s flamboyant birthday party drag ball
06.20.2018
08:56 am
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Freddie Mercury celebrating his 39th birthday at the Henderson nightclub in Munich, Germany in 1985.
 
It all started with a beyond flamboyant throw-down in Munich, Germany where Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury and a few hundred of his famous friends gathered together for Mercury’s “black and white” themed 39th birthday at the Henderson club. The Henderson was also used by Mercury to shoot the video for his 1985 solo single “Living on My Own” which includes footage shot at Freddie’s extravagant birthday shebang. Two months prior, Queen and Mercury set the world on fire with their set at Live Aid forever setting the rock and roll bar for greatness at a level so high it will likely forever stand as the single greatest live performance by a rock band ever. When Mercury sent out the invitations for his birthday, he requested attendees dress in drag and only in black and white. Mercury, of course, came as himself, because of course he did. I’ll leave you to think about that for a hot minute before we get to a few pieces of folklore about Freddie/Queen’s party habits as well as his follow-up birthday celebration in 1987 on the island of Ibiza.

If you know anything about Mercury, you know the man liked to enjoy himself, and took on the task of orchestrating nearly every detail of Queen’s debaucherous shindigs, such as the time in 1978 when Freddie booked-up the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter for the band and 500 of their guests to celebrate their upcoming record, Jazz. Dwarves were hired to walk around the party with trays of Bolivian coke and cocktail services were provided by nude waiters and waitresses. In the 2012 biography by Lesley-Ann Jones, Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury, Elton John was quoted saying that Mercury could “out-party” him any day. In 1981 when Queen and David Bowie got together to record “Under Pressure,” they powered through the day-long session with coke and booze. For his party in Ibiza, Mercury flew 700 of his pals to the island off the coast of Spain. To this day Mercury’s birthday is still celebrated at the Ibiza Rocks House (formerly the infamous Pikes Hotel where Mercury held his 1987 gathering). 

As unhinged as Mercury’s behavior could be behind-the-scenes there isn’t much evidence to cite his zealous pursuit of good times altering his ability to slay with his four-octave vocal range and commanding stage presence. To say nothing of the stone cold fact, Mercury knew how to party—something I’m sure you’ll be in agreement with after checking out the photos of Freddie partying like a pro as well as high-quality footage shot at the party to end all parties, below.
 

The invitation for Freddie Mercury’s birthday drag ball at Hendersons in Munich, Germany 1985.
 

Freddie’s black and white-themed birthday bash at the Henderson nightclub in Munich, Germany.
 
More Freddie after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.20.2018
08:56 am
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Scary monsters and crocheted creeps: The knitted brutality of Tracy Widdess
06.20.2018
08:20 am
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A knitted mask by artist Tracy Widdess.
 
In an interview included in the 2014 book Strange Material: Storytelling through Textiles, British Columbia-based artist Tracy Widdess says she began knitting nearly twenty years ago. Somewhere along the way, Widdess recalled that she found herself working with a group for a charity project charged with re-creating knitted masks from the 1970’s. After conducting some research for inspiration, Widdess came across a 1992 issue of Threads magazine and an article called “Snow Fooling” by Meg Swansen. Swansen was a protege of her mother Elizabeth Zimmermann, the founder of old-school crafting and knitting company, Schoolhouse Press. The images in the article struck a nerve with Widdess and her contribution the project would land her on the front page of the great, now sadly defunct website Regretsy. The exposure would inspire Widdess to create her own brand of sewing calling it “Brutal Knitting.”

Widdess would pursue various creative arts in school including sculpture, teaching herself to knit along the way. Soon her monsters and other strange knitted characters came to be by way of commissions—each taking 50-100 hours to complete. She is currently accepting commissions, so, if you have always thought how much better your life would be if people would just stop talking to you in public, then something wicked from Widdess is just what you need for your next walk around the block. Examples of Widdess’ wild work follow.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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06.20.2018
08:20 am
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‘Benji Takes a Dive’: Watch America’s favorite canine become the first dog to scuba dive
06.19.2018
09:15 am
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Dogs have done some pretty stupid shit for our entertainment. Toto, Air Bud, Beethoven, Lassie, Spuds Mackenzie—they may have been famous film and TV canines, but you do realize that they had no idea what they were doing, right? I’m sure some Hollywood actors often don’t, either.

Perhaps you are familiar with the popular film franchise, Benji. Its namesake was a small, golden mixed-breed pup whose wit and right-place-right-time arrangement allowed him to solve capers and protect those defenseless humans who truly needed him. As a result, Benji was a much-adored canine worldwide and his premiere 1974 film was a massive commercial success, which spawned an excess of sequels. Earlier this year, Benji made his streaming debut with a newly revamped, made-for Netflix film. I didn’t watch it.

But what you probably didn’t know is that in addition to being an acting dog, Benji also **allegedly** holds a world record. For scuba diving. Aired in 1981, Benji Takes a Dive at Marineland was a made-for-television special that follows the ever-so-lovable pooch as he ventures below the surface, to go where no dog has ever actually wanted to go.
 

Lana Afghana
 

PW Pugit
 
While a ‘behind-the-scenes’ approach could have deemed worthwhile, there isn’t much to report back on this Benji special. It’s hosted by Lana Afghana, a dog-mermaid puppet reporter who is sexually attracted to our protagonist (played by a female dog, mind you). Joining Lana is Benji’s manager PW Pugit, a Boss Hogg-type bulldog (also a puppet). The story begins as Benji arrives by sailboat at Marineland of Florida, a marine mammal park on Florida’s Northeast coast - where the momentous dive will take place. Jesse Davis and the Mulberry Squares, a calypso band of singing fruits, take us into the film’s musical number “I Don’t Know,” containing the rather morbid lyrics “I don’t know can dog survive, when he takes a dive.”
 

The Mullberry Squares
 

What the fuck…
 
The most interesting character of the storyline is its villain Boris Todeth, a communist militia dachshund puppet who attempts to ruin the dive in the name of political ideals. He even goes as far as swim to the very bottom of a shark-infested tank to steal Benji’s custom scuba suit. The plan is quickly exposed, but it didn’t really matter anyway because there was barely any conflict to begin with.
 

Benji and Boris
 

Benji feeds dolphins
 
It all pays off when Benji takes his historic dive. What a beautiful moment. Did he realize how magical it was? Probably not. Was this a miserable experience for him? Very likely. Benji’s suit was specifically-designed for the television special, all the way down to the special hatch that was installed for treat rewards during training. Benji spent weeks practicing diving in a backyard pool in California and whatever that entailed, it was enough to prepare him to swim among the fishes of Marineland.
 
Watch Benji take a dive, after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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06.19.2018
09:15 am
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For an unbelievable trove of indie/punk bootlegs from the 1980s, the McKenzie Tapes has you covered
06.19.2018
08:55 am
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Any music fan from the New York City area knows what an important part of the city’s music scene Maxwell’s was, until recently located in Hoboken, New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from the West Village. Yo La Tengo, the Feelies, and Sonic Youth are three frequently cited bands in connection with Maxwell’s but it was so much more than a regular venue for great local bands. I became familiar with the venue well after its true heyday of the 1980s but I still saw a ton of incredible bands there—the Wrens, Archers of Loaf, the Frames, Bobby Conn, Future of the Left, Os Mutantes, the Unicorns, etc. etc. For decades now, Hoboken has been on an implacable course of gentrification, of course, to the point that scruffy and legendary music venues can’t hack it there anymore. Sadly, Maxwell’s closed its doors for good in 2013.

One of the Maxwell’s employees back in the day was a fellow named David McKenzie, who cleverly recorded a huge number of gigs at the venue (and elsewhere). Recently he entrusted his buddy Tom to get them online in a responsible fashion, and the result is The McKenzie Tapes, a charming blog that features high-quality uploads of McKenzie’s, er, tapes. Every post includes a modest amount of context (just right, a couple of key facts but it’s generally just a paragraph) as well as pictures of the cassette, the ticket, and the show’s listing in the Village Voice, where available. It’s this last bit that has me so fascinated:
 




 
I learned via those listings something I didn’t know, which is that Maxwell’s used to show movies like Fritz the Cat and Los Olvidados and Rumble Fish.

The McKenzie Files covers approximately 1985 through to the early 2000s, and while most of the shows took place at Maxwell’s, you also get a nice cross-section of Manhattan venues of the period such as Brownie’s, Bowery Ballroom, CBGB’s, Irving Plaza, Coney Island High, and so forth. (City Gardens in Trenton also gets represented.) Once in a while you get a true outlier like a show from The Hague in the Netherlands but Dag Nasty at Maxwell’s (1988) is what the blog was constructed to provide.

The mid-1980s was an interesting period during which the grassroots fandom of indie rock had reached a groundswell of sorts (cf. Huskers jumping to Warner Bros.), with some of the no-fi champs from earlier in the decade showing impressive maturation (Sonic Youth). The blog features some incredible documents, such as SY playing a big chunk of Daydream Nation before the album’s release, the Feelies filming a set for a Japanese documentary crew, Frenz Experiment-era Fall, and Pixies right after releasing Surfer Rosa.

I mentioned much of this stuff happened before I was going to shows, so I was dubious I would find any gigs I’d been to, but damn if the blog didn’t deliver. I was present at this Rollins Band show at CBGB’s in early 1990, I positioned myself right at the main monitor and Hard Hank sweated on me for the whole show. To this day I don’t think the Rollins Band ever came close to topping Life Time, which is mostly what they played that night.
 
After the jump, listen to the Butthole Surfers play the Marquee in 1991…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.19.2018
08:55 am
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‘How the World Went Mad’: A diagnosis of the confusing, topsy-turvy world of President Donald Trump

01howmad1.jpg
 
I could start with a nod to Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis by writing:

“Rupert Russell awoke one morning from unsettling dreams to find the world had gone mad.”

But that isn’t quite right and doesn’t fully describe the situation that filmmaker Russell found himself when he awoke on the morning of November 9th, 2016, to the news that Donald Trump had been elected the 45th President of the United States of America. Russell described it better himself:

“I felt a sense of unreality. That I had woken up on a different planet than the one I had gone to bed on.”

Seemingly, the world had had gone mad overnight. But how had this happened? And what had caused this strange insanity?

Russell wanted to understand what the fuck had just happened. He also wanted to do something about this new topsy-turvy world, where the lunatics had taken over the asylum. He was finishing work on his documentary feature Freedom for the Wolf. Nick Fraser, the editor of BBC’s Storyville, had come onboard as executive producer. Fraser had also just launched a new venture, Docsville, and asked Russell if he would like to make some short films for this new platform.

On the day after the election, Russell had written a Medium post on being sane in insane places inspired by the work of David Rosenhan, in particular his famous experiment in which he entered an asylum claiming he heard voices. The doctors and nurses had diagnosed Rosenhan as insane, however, the patients quickly realized that Rosenhan was actually faking it.

Russell also “sketched out two more essays on madness under the new regime of (in)sanity”. He sent these along to Fraser as a possible idea for a series of animations called How the World Went Mad which would diagnose Trump’s election as a form of madness and offer up a possible cure. Fraser told Russell to go for it.
 
02howmad2.jpg
 
The end result was a series of five short films explaining How the World Went Mad by which Russell asked the very pertinent question:

In a world gone mad who can you trust?

Beginning on that fateful morning in Fall 2016, Russell takes the viewer through a brief history of psychiatry, culture, and politics to explain how we have all ended up here. I contacted Russell to ask him about the making How the World Went Mad and what he hoped his diagnosis of our current malady would achieve.

How did you go about making ‘How the World Went Mad’?

Rupert Russell: I spent a month in the British Library going through histories and psychologies of madness. I picked out studies that could be linked together to form a narrative arc of the series: diagnosis, symptoms, transmission, epidemic, and cure. I turned the notes into scripts, recorded them, and sent the files to Dare Studio in Poland, who had worked on my last feature, who got to work on the animation. The rest is archival footage, which I trawled through.

The most arduous of which was finding out who the infamous “fat guy” that Trump tormented in The Apprentice was. When we locked picture, Alex Williamson composed a wonderfully off-kilter score and three sound designers at Unit Post created a soundscape of insanity filled with screams, explosions, and even orgasms.

The polemic for your films rests on the idea Trump is mad—what happens if he is not mad?

RR: The source of my anxiety, as I describe in Episode 1, “Diagnosis,” is precisely this question: What if Trump is the new definition of sanity and it is I who am in fact mad. The line between sanity and insanity has been a skipping rope throughout history, pulling people in and out of it. Gays, lesbians, and women have only recently escaped their 19th-century diagnosis as perverts and hysterics. The Trump/Pence victory signalled another swing of the rope. In their Handmaid’s Tale morality, these gender traitors deserve no voice in the patriarch’s definition of sanity—where only the male “commanders” are capable of rational judgements.

The insanity of this position should be self-evident. But too increasingly, it’s becoming the new definition of sanity. We are living through another reaction to social progress that has resurrected the same tropes and characters of the feminist backlash in the 1980s, which inspired Atwood’s original novel.

More diagnosis of ‘How the World Went Mad,’ after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.18.2018
10:02 am
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