Friday, September 04, 2015

Trash Fest, like Christmas, came early this year

This thing will outlast nuclear holocaust.
I’m told that the Testa Rosa CD release show at Shank Hall last Saturday night was (unsurprisingly) transcendant. I’ve heard enough of the new recording to know that between the fact that the band is comprised of some of the best players in town, and fronted by the beautifully clear voice of Betty Blexrud-Strigens (comparaisons to Karen Carpenter are apt), the whole night was probably dripping with elegance and beautiful music. Especially worth noting is that this CD took over a year to produce (and who can expect more? Blexrud-Strigens had a Patti Smith tribute show to curate!) and it sounds like that level of care went into it.  If my FB feed is any indication, all the cool and classy people in town were there.

However, nobody ever accused me of being part of the cool and classy crowd. And to prove it, I wasn’t there.

Duh, I was at Trash Fest.

I missed the start of last year’s Trash Fest, and for the first time in memory, the perennial Nervous Virgins weren’t the opening act. (Maybe they were at Testa Rosa that night). Instead , we got a pile ‘o’ Jorins giving us their take on Jesus Christ Superstar, which I admit was was skeptical of. I still have Steven Christ Superstar in my memory from the early 90s, with Steve Whalen belting out “Heaven in Their Minds” over that that guitar line that nobody denies kicks ass. But not to worry. You haven’t heard the JCS overture until you’ve heard it on accordion, courtesy of Tyler Christ Superstar, with Judas Iscariot Priest singing the lead, and a motley crew of whoever they could get wondering what the buzz was and when DO they ride into Jerusalem? Before a pie in Jesus Ted’s face ended the set, Voot Warnings sidled over to me (wait wait wait! There was a VOOT SIGHTING AT TRASHFEST!) and asked me “So…. Best Trash Fest opener EVER?” I’m reluctant to be that absolute, but I’ll put it in the top five, for sure.

Soon afterwards, a couple  of geeky science guys in  Fermilab-issued white lab coats and safety lenses, accompanied by a drummer who looked like he was their financial sponsor approached the stage and proceeded to set up their experiment. Their hypothesis was explained thusly: That, if one were to strip out synthesizers from 80s NuWave (and, frankly, mainstream) hits, one would realize that these songs actually were great songs, and further, that they rocked. And, the proceeded to prove it by running through Tainted Love and even slipping in a 70s Roxy Music tune. The audienc reaction would confirm the hypothesis.  I’m concerned, however, that I did not see any IRB approval documentation in the research venue, and further, that we as the test subjects had not been offered the opportunity to give informed consent to participate in the research. Perhaps the Principal Investigators had obtained an exemption based on expedited review, but I’m skeptical. However, as best as I could tell, none of the research subjects sustained any kind of physical or  psychological damage, and, they proved their hypothesis. On to the next act.

Which turned out to be Gil Massen and the Rockabilly Douches, and they were pretty darn douchey.
They bothered to actually lug in a standup bass (what's a rockabilly band without a standup bass), all their songs were I-IV-Vs (what's a rockabilly song if its chord progression is anything else), all they lyrics were about how they play rockabilly ("We're rockabilly! Rockabilly!") and they were all in the same key: "Hope you like rockabilly 'cos this one's in A!"

We had a really uncomfortable wait for the next band. It seems like somebody didn't show up. Oh, gee, that never happens at TrashFest. To the rescue were a lovely group of people who handed out what appeared to be flyers but then we realized they were BINGO cards! Hoo! A trashy game of Bingo! With prizes and everything! The prizes were bite sized Snickers bars and Mexican wrestling masks (not real ones, just paper party ones, but still...) Bingo! Prizes!

This gave time for the Yacht Core ship to come into port. Paul Setser gave us a feel for what awaited us, with a stirring version of "Feelings," accompanied by Desmond Bone (not sure if that was planned or not) and then accompanied by Mike "I can read Walker quotes with a straight face" Nelson (pretty sure that wasn't planned), but everybody has "Feelings." (Wait wait wait: 30 years of Trash Fest and this is the first time anybody's done "Feelings"? How did we miss this?)_ Then the rest of the band floated onstage, including these two bearded women, one of whom was drinking champaigne out of a hot water bag, both of whom lovingly mellowed us out with "Margaritaville" and "Love Will Keep Us Together" and other shit you'd expect to hear on Judge Smalls' yacht. At first I though it was called Yacht Porn, and that would have been just as appropriate.

Then it was time for some wholesome family entertainment, as children's chanteuse Marlavous Marla
and her puppet friends took the stage and led us in childhood classics like "The Wheels on the Bus." Seriously. They did this straight up. And the crowd had enough liquor in them to reduce the collective intellect to the level of a classroom full of K-4 kids on the first day of school. So of course, we all loved it. You know what I love even more? The fact that this isn't just a Trash Fest act. This is a real gig for Marlavous: she makes good money doing this on the children's stage at Summerfest. God, I love Milwaukee.

Then what's starting to become a perenial act at TrashFest -- Cheese of the Goat oozed onto the stage. They're  this cross between GWAR, Frankie Yankovic, and the cast of Zombieland. And that damn accordion from earlier in the evening is back. Well, it had to be: these guys were playing death metal polka with cookie monster vocals.

This year, the requisite noise band was last instead of first, and Hideous Replica did their job: they pretty much drove everybody out of the place. I'm not a fan of noise bands to begin with, but these guys really were perffect for Trash Fest in that they were completely devoid of melody, rhythm, lycial content, or anything even approaching a "pleasing" (or even a n arresting) aesthetic. I just want to know if they were a replica of something, what the hell was the original? 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No, Desmond and Nelson joining Setser on stage was not planned but was a beautiful thing. Fly