I’ve known this guy for just around 30 years and we’ve been playing shows together in various forms for that whole time. He always “brings it”, if “brings it” means what I think it does, and he sure did for these shows. And I’m not just talking about the balloons. In San Francisco, Roy MacDonald of the Muffs climbed up on the stage and played through the whole set, spontaneously — it was really something to behold. All you need for rock and roll is a guitar and a guy yelling, that’s true, though it’s hard to get it right, but steady drums is what tips it over. (Also hard to get right, admittedly, but when it is gotten right, the whole thing comes alive.)
But my favorite moment was, of course, the following night at the Troubadour, when, accompanied by the great Dan Janisch on guitar and our own Jaz Brown on drums, he did what has to stand as the definitive performance of my old song “Two Minute Itch.” Lauren managed to capture it on video:
More about that here.
2. Nerf Herder from beyond the mists of time
We’d played a show or two with them before way back beyond the mists of time, but not in quite a while. Plus, I was pretty out of it back then, beyond the mists of time. Beyond the mist of time, it’s all kind of a blur for me, I’m afraid.
Anyway, fast-forward to now: those guys really know how to put on a show and get a crowd going. The centerpiece of their set is the song “Nosering Girl”, the lyrics of which every person in the crowd knew, which they screamed back at the band with a fervor bordering on hysteria. As maelstroms of hysterical fervor go, it was among the finest I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a few.) Everyone was smiling, which, to be honest, I tend to find a little unnerving, but what I’m saying is, you could really “feel the love”, as the saying goes.
Anyway, they’re a great band, and really swell guys too, and I hope we get to play with them again soon. Here I am palling around with Linus of Hollywood and our mutual friend Jonathan London. Well, okay the pic is staged, but on some level it reflects some genuine palling around that was happening underneath it all, somehow:
3. Parry Gripp pretending to read my book
I’m also a huge fan of Parry Gripp’s extra-curricular activities, if ECAs is the term I want. In fact I’m quite in awe of his genius, and I was more than a little starstruck talking to him. I mean, this is the man who wrote “Baby Monkey (Going Backwards on a Pig)” for God’s sake.
So this was neat:
(By the way, he now joins the great big Dork Gallery —just a big collection of photos of people pretending to read my books. I haven’t been so great about updating it lately but there it is in its current state.)
4. My Italians
There’s this group of Italian folks I’ve known for some time. It all goes back to our show opening for Green Day in Rome, 1996, where several of them were part of the teenage audience. Gradually over the subsequent years I got to know them bit by bit, particularly Beppe who developed into something of a superfan, popping up at various shows in Italy, Europe, and even the US. At some point in the mid-2000s, his friends chipped in to fly me to Milan to play a couple of songs at his wedding reception as a surprise present. And he was very surprised. I stayed for the following week and basically just fell in love with Milano. That’s when I really got to know the greater circle, Marta, Pippo, Gipi, Franz, and a host of others.
Since then, we’ve met up in sundry locales, most recently at the Punk Rock Raduno in Bergamo last year.
Well, most recently until last week when a gaggle of my Italians showed up at the shows. It’s always great to see them, though there’s never enough time to chat in such a show environment. As usual, Pippo, who is a genius graphic designer and artist, created a commemorative object, an “official Italian fan club love since 1996” pizza shaped MTX pin. They were at the merch table during the LA show and were a big hit. If you got one, congratulations.
And by the way, Pippo (a. k. a. Paolo Proserpio) leaves a trail of graphics wherever he goes. Here’s how I know he was tramping around my neighborhood recently:
5. Lauren Banjo
Lauren came out all the way from New Jersey for these two shows, and managed to keep it a total secret from all interested parties (band, fans, friends, me) till she walked into the Bottom of the Hill on Friday night. I sure was surprised. She’s a relative newcomer to the MTX-iverse, only having learned of the band last year through the Turn it Around documentary, but she’s certainly made her mark and always brings a great, unique energy to the proceedings whenever she’s there so it’s nice to have her around. She took lots of photos and some video, including that great one of Kepi and co. doing “Two Minute Itch” (see above.)
Even Jonathan London, in view of the “Our Days Are Numbered” 12,034 cake, has conceded the allegedly coveted “#1 fan” title to her, and here we all are:
6. Lauren, Marisa, and Beppe in their Dr Frank / Kepi shirts
Back in 2012, Kepi and I did an acoustic tour in Europe and made these shirts, with the same graphics as that split 7" where we did each other’s songs. (This was the tour for which the original The Way It Sounds Like was created.)
Beppe (on the right) got his way back then, while Lauren and Marisa scooped up the leftovers much later. (And they’re all gone now.) But they all wore them on Saturday, and then someone took the photo with them and me and Kepi. So that’s fun.
7. Dan Telfer and Rich Wilkes
Dan Telfer is a comedian and the editor, believe it or not, of MAD magazine. He’s friends with Nerf Herder, and asked through them if we’d mind having him introduce us at the Troubadour. (He introduced them as well.)
I didn’t know what to expect, but I always like being introduced, which spares me the clumsy “okay, well, I guess we may as well start. Should we? Should we? Should we?” thing I usually say before we launch awkwardly into the first song. But what it was, the intro I mean, was this extensive, impassioned, highly-detailed riff on Ben Affleck’s goatee as it appears in the film Glory Daze. The connection to us is that MTX songs appear on the soundtrack as well as in the film. It was funny, though it wasn’t, to say the least, complimentary about the goatee in question. In fact, Telfer had strong, not to say scathing, criticisms of the goatee in question.
What Dan didn’t know (at least, I’m pretty sure he didn’t) was that the writer-director of that movie, Rich Wilkes, just happened to be in attendance, along with his entire family. (Rich is a great guy, and a genuine MTX fan from all the way back — always a pleasure to see him at a show, and it was good to meet his kids and to try to rock the family’s socks off to the best of my meager abilities subsequently.) Once I realized the shape and direction this intro was going to take, and not being sure where he was going with it, I was amused but, I must admit, slightly apprehensive. No goatee is beyond criticism, certainly, but people take their art quite personally as I well know from my own experience. For all I knew, this goatee might well have been a sensitive spot for Rich, a Marcia’s nose, in effect. I have several such noses and goatees of my own in my past oeuvre, if oeuvre is the word I want, I can tell you.
It turns out, though, that Rich was pretty stoked that it was mentioned, and seemed rather pleasantly surprised people still remembered the whole thing. (Which is true, they do: it’s the only film our stuff has ever been in, and awareness of it has continued to bubble under the surface of the MTX world even after all these years.) His kids confirmed we had more or less rocked their socks as well. All that low-level worry and apprehension for nothing (which is pretty much par for the course for me, as you may or may not know.)
As for our part, it was fun. I always love playing. And like all of our shows since we started up again a couple years back, it was like a big reunion, or rather, like a collection of little reunions one after another. Everyone wants to share the story of how they discovered this weird, ramshackle operation, where they first saw the band, what this or that song has meant to them, etc. I get quite a kick out of these conversations, and not only in my capacity as a narcissist continually fishing for compliments and desperate for validation. It’s really true, at least on some basic level, that we’re all in this together, for whatever reason and however unlikely that is. The two of us outnumber every single one of them. (Though I might add, I’m not all that good at it. The socializing I mean. My attempts to smooth over the inevitable awkwardness often go off half-cocked and unsmoothed. But, I like it despite the anxiety as it feels important somehow.)
Among those I talked to at the Bottom of the Hill were two gals who went to high school with my cousin Shelley and were among the girls that sometimes hung around at the band practices we used to do at Alex’s parents’ garage in Burlingame, long, long ago. That blew my mind. I do remember those girls, in some vague but meaningful way. There was also this guy who was so over-the-top complimentary about my lyrics that I felt like I should deflect a bit, along the lines of “well, thank you very much but have you checked out the Gershwins? Ira had some good lines.”
Also, Heidi Cox took this photo of me (plus Ted) which I like because it’s a good photo and also because it’s the color of Ginny Poor’s pantry:
Anyway, it was a good time, to no one’s surprise. If we do it again, we’ll see you there, huh?