The year 2002 begins and… Speak In Tongues is no more. Eeek! The great (and ongoing) diaspora begins.
The first SIT alumni show to happen was this Beachland Ballroom bill on Sunday, February 3, 200, with Beckett Warren‘s new group, Whales (more on this below) opening for The Cassettes (Meredith Shantz, Nora Hartlaub & Jeff Ottenbacher hot off their appearance at the penultimate SIT show, the Rockin’ Holiday Party) and Kimya Dawson and Adam Green‘s The Moldy Peaches.
Looking back I’m like, whatever. But at the time the transposition of freeform, absurdist music like Beckett’s or—to a much lesser extent Dawson and Green’s which was was called “Anti-folk” but was really straight-up puerile crudeness (more on that in a sec)—from the “safe” environs of Speak In Tongues to the shot-and-a-brew squareness of the Beachland Ballroom was highly disconcerting.
The eschatological excesses of Whales (and The Moldy Peaches’ scatological ones) left me looking over my shoulder half the show. Songs about smoking crack and OD’ing, and purposefully repulsive sex stuff (primarily Dawson’s doing so don’t blame the dudes, alright?) and well, I dunno…
I’m no shrinking violet—I was about to embark on a career as a pornographer in L.A. for Larry Flynt for gawd’s sake.
But this bill made me feel like the grown-ups were going to bust in at any moment. It didn’t help that the Beachland Tavern was a vinyl wood-paneled hellhole reminiscent of the basements where so much high school mischief had been instigated back in the day.
Also—and this may sound really judge-y—but Beckett (who had already proved himself a genius by anticipating meme-culture by at least a decade with SIT house band Begit N Frenz), Finky Binks (real name: Anthony Marchitiello) and able assistant Joe Bernard were soo much better than The Moldy Peaches.
The Moldy Peaches were Brooklyn scuzz-exploitation. Naturally there was a line out the door to see them—which was sickening. Literally. (Dawson was already becoming a star thanks to heavy promotion from Vice Magazine—you know, Gavin McInnes, founder of the Proud Boys ‘n shit.) It was depressing for me, as an artist, to be here this night.
The NYC-backed fakers were being rewarded while the gentle, humanist Whales (ironic though that may sound) with their clever pataphysical conceptual play and hip hop-informed beats—and by extension OUR beloved Speak In Tongues family—was getting pushed aside.
Oh and EVEN WORSE was that some heckler rowdies, encouraged by Kimya, threw beer at Whales. And then Kimya and Adam Moldy Peach started yelling at the Whales when they dared deflect said beers, and the vile backwash drenched the Moldy Peaches’ equipment.
“You’re disrespecting the scene!” was the harridan cry as they jostled the Whales physically. No, YOU, Moldy Peaches, are disrespecting—by instigating violent humiliation of peaceful people on their hometown stage. Geez! F’in ridiculous. Twenty years later and my blood still boils.
Swim to safety—swim to safety!
Alas, this bill was indeed a harbinger of future developments.
Williamsburg won—and Cleveland lost—the early Oughties. It’s the way of the world, I’m afraid. The big city, fat cat-connected people always win no matter how slight their art is.
California-visitor Finky Binks retreated to Oakland (he ended up rapping with both Bobby Joe Ebola & The Children MacNuggits and Fleshies). I believe this was the only show Whales ever ended up playing as a duo/trio. [Not true, says Beckett: “I think we played at the Green Room once or twice, maybe Subs & Suds.”]
I got some great photos of Whales for my April 27th show poster starring them, Misty Martinez and Oblongata at Pat’s in the Flats (I’ll post more about that one real soon). Then I skidaddled out of this dismal scene.
Sorry, Cassettes. Not-sorry Kimya—it just wasn’t worth wasting any film on ya.
On this night I resolved to myself that I was gonna move as far as possible away from New York and the East Coast because all their shit sucked and there was no way I was gonna bend my knee to it. So that’s what I did.
Fun note: this had to be the first time I ever agreed with a Scene review about a band! Of course, this same writer went on to kiss Kimya Dawson’s butt when she became even more popular a few years later. That’s Scene for ya—no spine. That’s why we started U.S. Rocker way back when. The reviewer does not mention Beckett or The Cassettes.
Beckett reminded me that the late (and not-so-great, despite what folks remember) Cleveland Free Times also reviewed this show. The review is no longer online unfortunately—it was a doozy.
Beckett recaps things:
I think Danny Noonan “played drums” this show too. Which made the Free Times review—which had the line “you know the talentless person that surrounds themselves with talented people”—so funny. I surrounded myself with a guy pretending to play drums, another guy talking shit and another guy who showed up late to press play on a laptop. I won’t deny my talentlessness, but the reviewer’s eye for talent maybe wasn’t so honed.
Anyhow here’s Whales. I love you still.
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