July 23, 2000—this was a big day for SIT-ers. Our idol, Sam McPheeters of the legendary leftists Born Against, and his extreme musical-left-turn of a new group, Men’s Recovery Project, played the venue and everybody went nuts.
The Speak In Tongues residents loved Men’s Recovery Project—which old guy me (yes, I was already an oldster in the year 2000)—likened to a more updated version of the original original Butthole Surfers. You know, non-sequiturs, primitive electronics, hardcore and NOISE (the Surfers had long since gone rock, then pop, and lost their edge by this time).
There was also a big element of record cult around MRP as well. Similar to Current 93 or something. First you had to find these not-easy-to-get hard-listening obscure records. And love ’em. Then you could be part of the cult.
The Speak In Tongues slackers had such an amazing burst of energy thanks to Men’s Recovery Project’s impending visit that they cleaned the place (miracle!). So successful was the cleaning that they discovered they could have a second venue in the basement—at least until the trash piled up again.
Voila! “The Ashtray” was born.
This second, smaller space could finally alleviate the age-old gripe Cleveland folks had about Speak In Tongues. That it took too long for the bands to tear down and set up and that there was no one “in charge” to get folks hustling. Of course, since Speak In Tongues had no neighbors and no one who lived there worked had traditional “employment” there was no hurry to have the show end at any particular time. Cleveland is definitely a working person’s town where a lot of rockers work crappo jobs not on rock ‘n roll time where they have to get up way too early… So yeah. Ticked off show-goers were the norm on weeknights. The Ashtray seemed like a smart move.
Did it work? Nah. Cuz the upstairs and downstairs didn’t coordinate much so having two music areas probably doubled the time between bands. Ha.
But on this night—the debut—it was a tight show. Everyone wanted to impress Sam.
Someone even made a program—WHAT!? Check out this little 1×2″ booklet everyone at the show got. The date on the front was wrong but someone noticed the error and corrected it.
[Side note: I once went to an SIT show that had the wrong date on the flier. About 25 other people showed up as well. We all sat around drinking and waiting. Maybe an hour later someone who lived there came in and was, like, “Oh the show is actually tomorrow—the flier is wrooong.” And everyone nonchalantly shrugged, “Oh,” and kept drinking and hanging out. We all came back the next night too. I miss Speak In Tongues.]
Anyhow here’s the booklet—turns out it was Jake Kelly who created it (“…with old-fashioned Letraset rub-on letters!”):
Now, this show is infamous because it was mentioned in Sam McPheeters’ excellent Mutations: The Many Strange Faces of Hardcore Punk.
Here’s Sam’s version of what happened that night from Men’s Recovery Project’s POV:
Approaching Cleveland, Angie [the band’s Econoline] whimpered and died at a rest stop just north of Norwalk. Some helpful locals gave the band a ride to the club, where I promptly split the cartilage in one knee, ending the portion of the tour where I was able to walk unassisted. The locals donated a pair of mismatched crutches and allowed drummer Grant and I to sleep on the floor of the club. A drunk guitarist Neil and new bassist John were driven back to Norwalk by a nineteen-year-old. When we reunited in the morning, our prognosis was grim. A mechanic pronounced the carburetor cracked, and all we could do was wait for another. The band was bleeding cash.
Get this book now—I did!—and finish the tale. Yikes!
SIT resident musician / artist / sound person Brian Straw says: “I was the hero on this night because I had a van and picked up MRP who broke down somewhere in bumfuck.”
Here’s my band Razak Solar System going nuts onstage while MRP was en route. This is the only photo I have—do you have any?
While we’re at it, can you help me with details about these other SIT photos?