Subdermal november

melpomene whitehead

Butthole Surfers photos by Tom Ritchford; all other photos by Pruiga Phur

A funny thing about regret is, it's better to regret something you have done than something you haven't done. So I got Butthole Surfers tickets, even tho I really hadn't listened to them since Electric Larryland, or maybe it was Independent Worm Saloon. A funny thing about the Butthole Surfers is, beneath Gibby Hayne's Gibby-izing, and Paul Leary's facial buffoonery, and King Coffey's relentlessly hard drumming, are stunningly breathtaking countermelodies that offset so nicely the musical mayhem that permeate their songs. Even more recent pop works like "Pepper" where the beauty takes over, there are still more than hints of nefariety. .

At the World, the Buttholes did enough old stuff to keep us old people happy, including "22 going on 23," and a rousing "I saw an x-ray of a girl passing gas," which had all the white trash bags up front, myself included, singing along. Hey HEY! It looks as if Gibby has the same old effects box I saw him use at the old World on east 3rd St and Ave. C back in the late 80s when no one yuppies dared venture into the LES after dark, and there were no lines at the cash machine on Ave A. And the new kid, who plays both guitar and drums (so, yes, they have a second drummer for some songs, just like the old days), is an excellent addition. I went to see Gibby, on whom I've had a horrible crush for many many years, but I found myself staring mostly at Paul, who is definitely the Harpo of the band, endlessly pantomiming and grimacing and yucking it up for the audience. I remember thinking, when I saw the Buttholes at the World, that Gibby didn't have long--all that smoking and drinking would destroy his voice, and his skin was totally the wrong color... But now we have an older and wiser Gibby, wearing the cutest glasses, looking, ironically, better than ever. And sounding better than ever! But still I found myself thinking that Gibby might be too deep and intellectual and obtuse and abstract for me, so I'd best leave him to the lovely Quad Princess, who had organized the New York fans and had hung with the Buttholes the night before in Philly. Besides, the singer always gets the prettier girls, so we'd best leave those two alone. I'll take Paul.

And not only did they have a second drummer, they showed many of the old weird films--60s porn, surgical training films--now transferred to video and run real-time through a computer.

I have so many Butthole memories that have almost nothing to do with them: hanging out with my cousin playing celebrity bedrooms (a made up game we'd play when drunk, where we'd fantasize about the bedrooms of our favorite rock stars. Trent Reznor's was black leather and lacquer, Black Francis slept in a single bed with a flannel blanket, and Gibby's room smelled like bong water, and featured a mattress on the floor with no sheet and a leaking car engine.), chasing people out of Mars Bar with repeated playing of "The Annoying Song,".. of course, they were featured heavily in my meeting my friend Tom... They are the one band, who, even tho they'd disappointed me, has never disappointed me. They're still always the Buttholes. Face it, they completely changed the face of music--white trash rap, demonic vocal effects, incredible hooks in incongruous places--all these things seem commonplace now, but they were the first. Sure, we can blame them for Kid Rock, but it's not totally fair. They gave us this incredible gift of a shifted musical paradigm, merging psychedelia and Zappa-eque jazz with hard rock, and what we did with it was not their fault.

Oh, the new record is called Weird Revolution. It's not as powerful as their seminal works like Hairway to Steven or Locust Abortion Technician, but it still kicks more than Jet Li.

Early that week, I met the Quad Princess for the first time, at the DJ Spooky release party at the Lunatarium ( This lovely amazon bounds up to Tom, squealing. I'm thinking "Where did Tom ever run across this beautiful creature? On line, of course. Quad is the moderator of the NYC raves list ( and a frequently posts to the Butthole Surfers bulletin board. The Lunatarium was almost as stunning as Quad--sweeping views of our fragmented skyline all along the west wall, allowing you to watch the East River flot and jet by. For this event, there were swings, and fire eaters, and cute little ravers with sloppily painted faces. Spooky was dull. Perhaps it's the slime from the Gap ads that's eliminated any sparkle he had. But I personally don't find playing samples from "Take Me On" very interesting. Oddly, when DJ Small Change played a similar set the next night at the Madagascar Institute's Lost Vegas (including my fave, Trio's "Da Da Da") it sounded much better. At the Spooky show I asked if any heard anything about Burning Burt, an outlaw party that was to be thrown under the Manhattan side of the Washington Bridge (the little bridge that goes from W181 to the Bronx), and of course Quad was up on the news--police helicopters had frightened the partiers to a locale indoors and downtown. So off we all went, and there we ran into dogs, babies, kittens, ravers, acid eaters, and Yvonne from Infornography (, a great events e-list. The pitbull was supposed to be kept in the locked apartment, but he wandered into the hallway. I must have been mighty stoned or something because I grabbed his collar and led him back to his apartment! Nice puppy, nice puppy I'm saying to the dog, and my lizard brain is saying "Wow, Mel, you're crazier than I thought! That dog's neck is bigger than your waist!" There were all these girls cavorting in big pants and tank tops, svelte and elegant with giant eyes, looking like children from Keene paintings on e.

Lost Vegas was a costume event, so I wore white pleather hot pants, an orange poly halter, and black boots, looking like a goth Nancy Sinatra. Quad dressed all glam and got an assignment as the ring girl for the big Cock Fight! I sped right over to the cockroach races, where four hissing cockroaches shimmied, crabwise and testudinal, down a race track towards slimy bunned hotdogs. The roaches kept trying to crawl off the track and had to be scooted back with a spatula. They were quite charming, if you like your bugs big and armor-plated, which I don't. Lost Vegas featured a Slut Machine (a faux-slot machine with dirty pictures inplace of fruit and numbers), a Rat Roulette wheel (it was actually a sweet white mouse who'd get spun around and then would duck into cups for some cheese), very cheesy karaoke and two separate places to get married--you could get married by Elvis, or by a preacher with a shotgun. My friend Paul married himself, and Quad married her friend Phil the chemist. Music was provided by MongoLounge, doing Vegas-y versions of Devo songs (I kept thinking, Go faster!), DJ Small Change, and the ever-luvin' kleverVice, who was decked in some pimpin' Mac Daddy clothes.


Monotrona at the Saturday Night Radio Special organized by 103point9 was quite bizarre and charming. Amid a set decorated with little buildings, cotton snow, and Hello Kitty, Monotrona hovered like an alien god in a bathrobe. Mono's songs seem as if they were written by a less pretentious Laurie Anderson. Throughout the strange performance, Mono danced jerkily while entoning strange distorted lyrics into her headset. I was afraid she was in danger of destroying the tiny town, but she was a benevolent god and left the restless natives to their own arcane devices. Later, Centuries rocked out old school with a yamaha keyboard and beats that sounded straight from Trio. IÕm terrified that there really will be an 80s resurgence soon, and we'll have to deal with Britney Spears covering Kajagoogoo songs and wearing leg warmers. Centuries asked us to cut them some slack, as they were from Staten Island, but hell, I grew up there, and altho the stench is strong, you can eventually clean it off. Peter Etc. told me that Centuries is hit or miss, as is Monotona, since they're both very experimental and do different sets each time.

At art openings I find myself categorizing my experiences as either Slacker or After Hours moments, referring of course to those two movies. Think of the difference between things you'd see on the Lower East Side versus things you'd see in Soho. A Slacker moment would be low-rent, DIY, offbeat materials. The Upward: Flying Machines and Kinetic Sculptures show at the Cave was definitely more of an After Hours thing--better organized, well-planned, but still odd. When we got there, people were in HazMat suits on bungee swings playing free jazz. Kyle Dries was behind the jumping free jazz, having constructed the swings and the other kenetic sculptures in the room, some of which looked quite dangerous. Naoki Iwakawa created lovely cruxifixtures from rope and feathers that hung from the ceiling creating ominous and elegant shadows. Later, Kyle donned his spring boots and bounced over to a party at BMP.

The party after was filled with some very ugly people in tight tacky synthetic sweaters, sporting shag haircuts. One guy had a Leo Sayer (or Richard Simmons) 'fro. It was hideous. And they were making fun of the band! As if! Get a grip, peeps! Even if you don't dig the band, at least they're doing more than you are! The band, who refused to give their name, were an eclectic instrumental combo with two guitars, a keyboard layer/saxophonist, and one of the hardest working drummers I've seen. He really held everything together with inefatigably grinding beats, rarely letting up.

Upward: Flying Machines and Kinetic Sculptures runs through November 18. The Cave is at 58 Grand Street in Williamsburg (

I started reading the new Jennifer Egan book, Look at Me, lauded in the New York Times Book Review as "brilliantly unnerving," but I had to put it down when I found an annoying factual error on page 18 where she describes some people playing hockey using a can of Tender Vittles as a puck! Tender Vittles does not come in cans! That's why they call them Tender Vittles! Because they stay tender in that foil pouch!! I'm not a fan of Egan's--she's one of those authors who adds stupid details that are supposed to make the world seem more real, but when you're making factual errors reality flies out the window, Jen. So, instead, I started reading Lawrence Krauser's Lemon, a book put out by McSorley's... no... McMurty's... no... oh! McSweeney's! That's right. I put off reading this because Lawrence works for the same company so I didn't know how to approach this--should I buy a book off him? But then I have to tell him what I think about it... and the McSweeney's people seems so precious and cliquish and incestuous in a way I don't like. It's a shame, too--I like Jonathan Lethem, who recently published The Shape We're In with McSweeney's, and I didn't hate what's his name's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (which is sort of heartbreaking, but not a staggering work of genius, so when Dave Eggers says the title is not ironic you have to assume he's got a head the size of Rudy Giuliani's). Well, the book was magnificent. It's a tragic love tsory between a man and a lemon. His freinds think it's weird, his parents are freaked... but what to do? The lemon makes him happy. Somehouw Krauser manages to get you very involved with this twisted freakazoid, who, as it turns out, is just like your or me, only with a citris fetish. There are many occurances that will make you cringe, and many laugh-out-loud moments too. The book is SICK, and I'm considering buying it for everyone on my christmas list. Since McSweeney's is a small press, you may not find this in your bookstore. MAKE THEM ORDER IT FOR YOU. I'm serious!

And finally, Red Warehouse has moved to the Hard Rock Cafe, which is really quite bizarre. When I saw Janet Vodka and Bananafish Zero there in October, old people were eating burgers while boys sang raunchy songs about fucking and not fucking enough. The space is big, the sound is good and loud, and it's not overly expensive, so that's cool. You really want to check out Janet Vodka next time they play--yeah yeah, the songs are good, but they have an exceptional go-go dance, Bex (, who has also been doing some hosting at Rools Like Ozzy (1:30 Thursday nites, ch 56 on MNN). She is a volcana--and not a dormant one either, but an explosive, lava-flowing one.

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