Zoogz Rift

(Journal entry, c. 1982)

Later we went to the Anti-Club. It is not identified as such, announcing itself over the door as “Helen’s Place”; luckily we heard the give-away sounds of a slapped, ill-tuned snare and over-amped keyboard: Art! This had to be the place. Indoors was, ah, “refreshingly different”: Helen’s Place is a country music bar, and dangling from the ceiling were saddles, and covering up large portions of the walls were large wagon wheels (I leaned against one a good part of the evening)—between these were various accoutrements of the Old West. Of particular interest was a large display, labeled and all, of a collection of barbed wire.

Three bands played that night. First was Earth Dies Burning: singer, aged circa sixteen, two on casios, one circa fourteen (the singer’s brother; their parents sat next to us, adoringly), the other circa sixteen (and who played drums one night for Nervous Gender at Al’s, subbing for Don Bolles who was with 45 Grave in Arizona; the kid was a real formlessly energetic drummer and lots of fun), finally, a drummer, circa thirty. The latter’s set was cruder than mine, his crash looked to have been run over by a tank. They played a real short set, including a version of “Heartbreak Hotel” retitled “I Like Fishsticks And So Does Dad” (you see, father was injured in an auto wreck and is paralyzed from the waist up—and when Mom goes out to play Mahjong all he can prepare for dinner for himself and son is fishsticks). Also a great version of “Psychotic Reaction” which was as good as the Urinals doing the “Jetsons” song and [my old band] Keene White doing “Rave On”). A great, stupid, short set.

Then came the guy [John Trubee] who once played bass in the Amazing Shitheads laying down (the first time we ever saw them he was doing that—I think that was his final gig with them, though.) He did this ridiculous poetry—real crude, witty and funny. He rolled around on the floor, dropped to his knees, and waved at and cajoled the crowd with a big rubber penis. He also had one of those mechanical chimps you wind up and they clang little cymbals together: clang clang clang clang like that. His best poem was one about Sonny andCher, elevating their story to the level of a Greek tragedy.

He had been backed by the next band on the bill (though their “backing” was a quite unrehearsed volley of noise and squeaky guitars), who called themselves Vertical Invaders. They had a line-up and sound similar to MX-80 Sound, though much less developed. Good points were a) they didn’t wallow in sloppy-noise-as-art b) their guitars were used in interesting manners c) no rhythm boxes or other trendy devices. Bad points were a) monotonous drumming and b) some of their songs were a little too similar to others, e.g. their climactic number was very similar to “Waiting For My Man”. Promise, though.

A couple oddities: they had a song about General Guderian, and one song they started, screwed up, started again and then having completed it, decided the did it poorly should do it again. I liked that. It was extremely hot in the place, the air conditioning having broken down in the midst of our 100+ degree heat wave.

Finally, of course, was Zoogz Rift, who put on as good a show as I’ve ever seen them do. Zoogz began the show with an acapella rendition of “An American Tune” by Paul Simon, done straight, then he joined his band and tore into some new material, including “Kiss My Bleeding Dork”, an attack on theL.A.music scene, and some song really trashing Frank Zappa. Plenty of old stuff as well, in particular a great version of “Heart Attack”.

We sat with Zoogz and his band, talking, and all in all had a good time. Richie Häss, the drummer, is exceptionally good—plays all kinds of beats, has two bass drums and a high hat, etc. The bass player, Dan Buchanan, is the strangest rock bassist I have ever seen: never mind that he bounds about eland-like, but he plays with a slide on his little finger and runs his fingers up and down the fretboard (sometimes both hands) maniacally, making a really strange sound—his bass at times sounds more like an Elvin Jones drum solo (fast, deceptively erratic) [think I meant Rashied Ali.]. The keyboard player [Jon Sharkey] is really weird, playing a cheap organ and electric piano through fender amps—you can imagine the effect. He also strings his equipment with blinking Christmas lights. Finally Zoogz himself: fat and angry as ever, voice strong and guitar frenzied. Nice guy, too.

These guys are our favoriteL.A.band; I think they are the best band on theL.A.rock circuit, and I can’t even think of any other band that compares.

The next night we went to the Cathay de Grande to see, once again, Zoogz Rift. Opening the show was a strange band calling themselves “Hurtin’ Bros”, playing a kind of intellectually crude R&B: imagine an R&B band on the old Roxy album [the Roxy Live punk comp], heavily influenced by Mirror Man—that is kind of the idea. A bit pretentious, but crude enough to satisfy my punk urges. Three guitars (two lead and a rhythm), bass, drums and sax, and a barefoot singer. FromPasadena and I liked them [one of them was our crazed friend and original Silverlake BBQ Association member Bormann]. They’ll probably gain some notoriety around town—a cultist’s cult band.

Zoogz and His Shitheads were good that night, though it finally dawned on me just how bad the sound system is there—criminal! The worst of all the clubs in town, especially after the real good system they had at the Anti-Club. The crowd sucked, too it’s too bad the crowds are so lame in L.A. anymore—the art crowd has been permeated by this sappy gay funk disco mentality with no real sense of purpose. I suppose all youth movements are prone to this—it’s just sad to see it happen. Zoogz, too, was sick of it, or them, especially of people walking out, so, during “Heart Attack” he lunged off stage and charged after two deserters using his guitar like a lance, then thought better of, turned around and told the band to pack it up. That was it. The Shitheads said he does that sometimes…. Zoogz explained it to us later, and his reasons actually made sense. We talked for quite a while, on the Cathaystairs, about all kinds of stuff; he gave us a copy of his first album (gratis), called Idiots On The Miniature Golf Course, qualifying it like mad: I like it, a lot in fact, though it is nowhere near the quality of the stuff he’s doing now.

Zoogz Rift and His Amazing Shitheads is probably the third band like that both of us have been really behind, and fond of: others are the Sequencers (+ Christian Lunch), and Nervous Gender. I think what we appreciate in them is a) an uncompromising attitude and belief in what they are doing, which borders on ferocity; and b) a healthy dose of personality, that is, interesting exciting people who don’t try to cover up their appearance onstage behind a made up image (they can act weird on stage, but it’s them acting weird, and not some facade; and c) they’re nice guys. If they are jerks, stuck up, or attitude coppers [attitude copper?], she doesn’t like them—nor do I.

So we went home—a bit discouraged that the show went so poorly, but happy that we are getting to know the band so well—they consider us two of their biggest fans.

We went home and turned on Monster From A Prehistoric Planet, Japanese circa ’65. Kind of a cross between Godzilla, Rodan and Gorgo—complete with a brown-faced Japanese kid portraying a little jungle boy who is friends with the Mom and Dad monsters and cries as they are blown to pieces by massed rockets. Real trash—actually drove Fyl off to bed, but I remained, the TV with the sound off, one of those strange KPFK late night-early morning “new Music” shows squeaking and rumbling quietly in the corner, and reading (what, though, I don’t recall). How bohemian….

Sunday we went to Spike’s to issue in the Labor Day. He lives in a sort of “artist’s” colony at the corner of Western and Melrose: great litle vaguely European apartment, but the neighborhood is crazed, being the center for drag queen whores. Just a wonderful neighborhood—the whole time we were there we were accompanied by screams and yells, breaking bottles, squealing tires, loud queen voices, threats in Spanish, sirens, strange and ominous bumps in the night. I couldn’t handle it [we must have been very stoned and I was freaking out, as we’d been hanging in neighborhoods like that on a regular basis….] Spike was once mugged outside the gate of the building [by a gang of six foot plus black drag queens, seriously]; they hit him over the head with a metal bar, and nearly tore his ear off as well. And he was on acid at the time….

We had a good time, though, talking talking talking, drinking beer and smoking pot. Listened to the Slits, Dolls, Hell Comes To Your House, Stooges, UXA and other neet records [that “neet” was a joke, or better have been], watched an animated Flash Gordon (only partly with the sound on—it wasn’t very good); told variations on the “maybe it’s just a stupid bird-lizard” line from Monster From A Prehistoric Planet, and listened to Spike’s great flying saucer, etc., stories. Fun.

On Monday Phyllis, out of the blue, said let’s go to my folk’s house to see my Dad off to Philadelphiathough he’d already left. Went anyway—had fun, great hamburgers, weird jokes (my brother Jon wouldn’t sit on the lawn because it was full of “insect shit”). Had a couple hits of pot and a great trip home—windows open, air beautiful; heard a riot-like Jerry Lee Lewis song (“High School Confidential”, live) and something by Aaron Copeland we liked a lot. Ed O’Brien [aka Celtic Runes of Renfield Brick, then bassist in Zoogz Rift’s band and later art director for SST] returned my MC5 albums and “Teenage Head” by the Flamin’ Groovies; he also picked up a copy of that rare old Some Chicken single—great savage ’77 punk; real obscure, too. Oh—I borrowed my sister Suzi’s copy of Sometime In New York City album, which was surprising on two counts: first, that Suzi had it at all (apparently she’s a real John Lennon fanatic), and two in that it’s not that bad, after the reviews I’ve read. The title cut (minus the “Sometime In…” ) is a real killer cut—just hard rock’n’roll. I like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “We’re All Water”, too. That Elephant’s Memory is a hell of a band, too—I’ll keep an eye out for their album.

That was our three day weekend, then—I had lots of fun. It was real refreshing. Wow, I started this Sunday, and am just finishing it now, Thursday 9/9/82, at 10:30 PM.

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