White knuckle shroomin’, The Basketball & Speak In Tongues, 1999

“Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999.” Duh duh, duh duh duhh.

We’d been hearing that song our whole lives and here we were—the year had arrived: the twilight of one millennium, the start of another. And I was bothered.

It was nearing the close of 1999 and I had yet to party. You know, really party.

Sometime in the fall of ’99 I decided I needed to let loose and get deep into shrooms. If this sounds weird as a conscious decision to make, I feel you, but I had a vision and I’ve always been a doer. Psychedelics were my new project.

At that time, psychedelic space seemed like a necessary thing to explore. Mushrooms were therapeutic, or so I heard (still hear that today).

After U.S. Rocker bought the farm in 1998 I was pretty bummed.Magic mushroom therapy had to be the solution! (As I’ve remarked elsewhere, I was an undiagnosed addict/alcoholic at this time and not making rational choices.)

All 101 issues of legendary ’90s underground music magazine U.S. Rocker are now online

Fortunately I was employed again at Ohio Lawyers Weekly where I ghost-wrote for politicians and fat cat attorneys, sold ads and did some layout and design when the main person was on maternity leave. Ohio Lawyers Weekly was the anti-U.S. Rocker. Not really how I expected to spend my vital late 20s but, hey, I was making some money.

READ: An oral history of U.S. Rocker—Ohio’s greatest rock magazine, Pt. I: The early years 1989-93

Thanks to this new disposable income situation, I was hanging out at gay bars every night after Speak In Tongues doing the things young, foolish, dead-end me did at that time: drinking, tipping strippers, purchasing street drugs from hustlers in the bathrooms, drowning my sorrows in fucked-upped-ness.

One night this guy Bob from my old, broken up band The Divine Invasion and I were hanging with at The Cage (definitely the coolest Cleveland gay bar—lively, rough, right next to the projects, near SIT) had a ton of shrooms. Did Mr. Petite Money Bags moi want some?

Dream, meet reality.

“Standing on the runway waiting for takeoff…”

Let me just say that Bob and I did have a pretty awesome time tripping at first. Went to the Metroparks at night. Things got a little scary and intense when we ended the experience back at Speak In Tongues and Lockweld‘s Steve Makita was arc’ing away with his grinder on some corten steel, shooting sparks all over the fucking place while his partner Karen made ungodly electronic feedback noise. Yeouch. Quite a comedown.

Second trip a week later kinda picked up on that scary vibe and then crashed lower.

During this period Bob had a sketchy apartment off Detroit Ave. in the bad part behind the Little Caesar’s.

We scarfed a bunch of the remaining mushrooms and then Bob promptly forgot about me and started macking on some dude he lured over. I was utterly alone—embarking on my first bad trip. You know how you can just feel the chaos—the mental cacophony—coming on—and that it’s gonna be terrible?

I called a cab. It was the scariest cab ride ever as I slipped further and further down the rabbit hole psychologically—and off the seat physically. Cleveland was dissolving away outside. Could the driver tell I was tripping? I had puddled on the floor of the vehicle by the time we arrived home.

Paying the driver was this molasses-slow Mr. Bean-type incoherent slapstick episode I’d love to forget.

I made it up the steep stairs of The Invisible City and collapsed on the sofa, my bad trip accelerating ever-faster than before. Perhaps if I looked at a very colorful book I could calm my mind?

Bad idea!

For some reason I grabbed Of Muppets & Men and opened to an image of Dave Goelz manipulating a Medieval armor-clad Great Gonzo, his hands and arms deep inside the Muppet‘s innards and an insane expression on his face. And there I stopped. The shrooms finally kicked into their highest overdrive and I was immobilized.

Man and Muppet fused into one.

I did not move off the couch or turn a page for the next three hours. THREE HOURS. I was on a cosmic voyage through face-melting psychedelic space with Goelz and Gonzo as my only companions.

When I was finally able to break the paralysis I smoked a joint and started collaging what became the poster for the November 12, 2000 Speak In Tongues show with Linola Lenola (from Philadelphia, I misspelled their name on the original flier oops) and our buddies from Kent, Ohio—alumni of several Invisible City recording sessions—The Basketball.

The Basketball—what the heck happened to those guys? All three were sweethearts and their music was super aggressive post-hardcore with math rock instrumental flair. Kind of a new sound at the time, at least for the younger scene they were part of.

From where I was shroomin’, The Basketball were total Muppet rock.

Then there was my band, Razak Solar System. More shroomtastic evil Muppet music.

Razak brand new at the time and everyone was digging our shit. I’m so proud to have played in this band with Kevin and Steve!

We were recording a maxi-single. Check it out:

Listen to the Razak Solar System Phantom Power EP:

The EP’s gatefold art came from my mushroom freak out as well—you can see that above. Gonzo and Goelz made it onto the gatefold and the flier. Souvenirs of my trip.

I’ve lost track of The Basketball. Can you help me reconnect?

I don’t have any photos from this show we played together, but I do have these Polaroids of The Basketball guys horsing around at The Invisible City wearing my infamous bunny ears, Freddy Kreuger-glove, sitting on the very same couch I was trippin’ balls on:

Here’s Lenola from the same tour:

Thank goodness for YouTube, eh? It’s pretty remarkable that this video exists!

I do feel like Lenola was slightly miscast on this bill. Though on the surface a ‘trippy’ band in conventional parlance (read: shoegazer, fuzzy distorted pop), their music never described how any of my trips unfolded. Not enough Muppet. Turn up the Gonzo!

Razak Solar System Speak In Tongues

Razak Solar System, Linola from Philadelphia & The Basketball at Speak In Tongues, November 2, 1999. Poster: Sean Carnage.

“Two thousand zero zero party over, oops out of time.”

If you have audio / photos / video of this show, will you please contact me privately via email or on Instagram or Twitter. Thanks!

While we’re at it, can you help me with details about these other SIT photos?

Here’s everything I’ve posted about Speak In Tongues

Check out all the Razak Solar System posts

I was the Easter Bunny for GSMF & the craziest Speak In Tongues show ever

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