Last week, Anuradha aptly named the Open Mic at the Laboratory an anthropologist’s dream. We were not disappointed upon our return on this past Monday. I arrived a touch late, right as they began at ten, not wanting to sit through another half hour of bad comedy… but this saw me miss the sign up sheet, on a sheet of paper rather than the board (“The board is dead!” cried Tom Miller). I sat down just in time for Tom’s newest opening craziness – an airing of the show Dog the Bounty Hunter, possibly one of the worst “reality” shows I’ve yet seen. Tom seemed particularly keen on the woman’s “swimable bosom.” We actually sat for an entire episode. Luckily, Anuradha showed up soon after he hit play, and we chatted the time away.
The vibe of the Laboratory leans rather towards the reactionary left. Scathing mockery of Christianity, odes to marijuana… Tom Miller renamed the show “I Love Dog” in honor of his sarcastic conversion to Christianity, passing out flyers he picked up from an evangelist church, our forced viewing of Dog the Bounty Hunter being out of “respect for Jesus” as Dog was God spelled backwards. This tone continued for Reverend Angel Dust’s “benediction” – similar to the previous weeks with it’s “Praise Jamba”s and exultations to the Goddess. Anuradha enjoyed the sermon tremendously. This time we’d brought pens and paper to jot down the gold pouring from the stage. The Reverend’s bit strangely married tragedy and comedy. He spent the first bit asking for a moment of silence for the Phoenix victims, but with a smile to his voice that undercut the true sadness of it. I felt extremely uncomfortable. He continued, using the gunman as a vehicle for his beliefs about weed and guns:
“…Anyone who carries a gun is mentally ill.
Now, if we were all naked, no one could hide guns beneath their clothing at political rallies.
And furthermore! If we were all under the influence of Her Goddess’s hempyness, then none of us could shoot straight anyways…
The Hairy Krishnas are having group therapy.
I say that we, of the congregation of the holy church of hedonism, should also partake of group therapy. In the nude.
Amen. (The audience echoes)
Awomen. (The audience echoes)
A group therapy session in the nude. (The audience echoes).”
Last visit’s “Frog”, who performed the truly horrid disco motions to Stayin’ Alive came on as “No Good,” blowing out the speakers again with a loud electric guitar/drum track while screeching un-miked in his scarlet bowler hat with false ZZ top hair to match his real scraggly beard and matching suit. Even he broke off his screams to break into laughter every now and again. Tom Miller congratulated him afterwards as being truly No Good. Then followed a random test question – a single question something of a satire to standardized tests – administered by Frog/No Good, who read the instructions SAT style from the mic in a slow, snail-;ike voice. “Thank you guys for participating in this scientific experiment.” The results would be revealed the following week.
The spoken word poet David Moss captained the stage next, asking for requests. It seems he only had a few poems, which were alternately delightful, Cheese, and masturbatory, Dirty Love. He rather offended my eardrums during the latter with a screamed-directly-into-the-mic, “I’m gonna pump, Pump, PUMP you.” The poem dealt with oil drilling.
All throughout, like some sort of refrain from these regulars, someone would call out “Is this the show?” When someone in the back chattered a bit too disrespectfully, Tom took a minute, or five, to avow, “Anyone trying to rush me through a Monday Night, well Fuck you!” His friend Chase, the other half of the bad comedy act from the other night, then proceeded to play loudly commentate two YouTube videos – a Durex commercial and a Ren & Stimpy’s Space Madness. Most of his comments fixated on analogies to the horrors of marriage and his ex wife. Poor guy. This boring act cleared out half the room, something Tom was keen to note, proudly.
Then began the musical portion of the night. Local Gainesville “legend” Jack Mason sang a couple of Pixies covers: This Monkey’s Gone to Heaven with Tom singing harmony and an inspired Where is My Mind. Sadly, the young crowd behind me took this first talented set as a conversation break. John Wasser, “Wahoo” followed him up with the same repertoire of badly sung old covers, then Jose took the stage with Helen to sing a sweet song, the Decemberists Eli, the Barrow Boy, hardly miked such that we all sat closer in. Jose’s eyes never opened and Helen’s harmony never lifted into an audible range.
The highlight of the night came from Helen herself. Brilliantly trained operatic voice and astonishing control marred by horrid nerves and amateur ukulele/guitar strumming. She’d play and sing a beautiful twenty seconds before abruptly stopping, laughing nervously and either restarting or apologizing and continuing from precisely the spot she left off. Her tone and vibrato befit an older woman of the showtunes era. The twenty second bits remained lovely enough to excuse her breaks as cute.
I followed, after an extremely flattering introduction by Tom. The Mario Kart Love Song was well received, but for whatever reason I felt rushed the entire pitch – maybe that I only began after 12:30, or that I was second to last, I felt strangely nervous and uncomfortable. I even abbreviated Liberta after a flubbed note. The Laboratory crowd remains my favorite, though, with their forgiving ways, enthusiasm and support. They cheered, sang along to my chorus in my Squirrel Song, laughed at my jokes… beautiful if eccentric people, all.
Now, Gainesville venues don’t acquiesce to solo acts and so I’ve had to team up with others for my gigs. One I’ve joined with is James Wesson, whose myspace.com/lordofoats assured me he played pretty well. A regular at the lab he closed the show after me after generously filming my set. He played with Joe Willis as Whale Hunt, and the result truly offended my ears. Shrill feedback, loudly overplayed synth and guitar, screamed lyric-less vocals – it rang of wankery wall-of-sound/”beauty”-of-noise crock. Rang, literally. They spent twenty minutes warming up, playing loud nonsense out of their amp and speakers. James, who looms giant-like above and to the sides of me, nearly destroyed the stage (as is his general style, apparently) and continually walked around befuddled for some reason or other – the guitar getting unplugged, the gain being too high, the chords getting wrapped around the mic stand…
I have two gigs with him next week. I am… a bit worried, but luckily these aren’t with Whale Hunt, but rather just him. Tamer, I hope.
Song of the Day: Squirrel Song – Terrence Ho