Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Normal's 21st Anniversary

Where did 21 years go and which window did they exit from? From nine we are now 4. Not too many violent incidents and throwdowns considering the length and weight of the project, really. This year's anniversary wingding was somewhat more sale based than last year's big 20th anniversary blowout, but we got some great musicians to donate some time and talent and to saturate our walls with more aural goodness.
One of my all-time favorite sets of music in the last few years was Susan Alcorn (above) playing Senor Gnostic Moonbeam Higgs Christmeastermass at Normal's. She started out riffing on Hawaiian pedal steel flourishes, soared into the stratosphere and then somehow made a landing into "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". She played another beautiful set for the Anniversary show to kick things off. By the end of it I was a luminous jellyfish pulsating on the ocean floor.
Following Madame Alcorn and digging their tender young heels in as the mobs next door loved up on the mad 30% off sale, was Sea Couch. I've been following these guys since they were selling LSD behind the catholic high school in Tiimonium and they only get better each time. This time their voices in particular seemed to really have found new heights of expression. One new song that is featured on the Love-a-saurus compilation sounds like an Appalachian hybrid of a Japanese koto song. Amanda's voice effortlessly found an eerie high pitched music box quality. They also did a wonderful song about the belief that you will find your true love that was straight forward and inspiring without being sentimental. They didn't mention who it was by and I confess I didn't recognize it. Maybe Daniel Johnston? I will have to ask young Dan, if he is still speaking to me after he caught me stealing the chapstick from his mother's purse.
Here is Amanda of Sea Couch snuggling against Geff of The Baltimore String Felons who later that night would have their cd release party at the Free Farm in Hampden. I actually rose back up from my crypt a second time that day and made it to their show. Being twice as old as everyone there (other than fellow Aged Pursuers of the Dream Chairman Rachel and Giant China) and openly displaying every craggy loss and crushed hope of my many years, the oiled up youth gasped and wept as I crawled through them leaving a trail of dust that when caught in the right light could pass for glitter.

Happily I was rewarded by catching Sea Couch for the second time in one day and catching for the first time "Her Fantastic Cats". This gent was on fire and I'm not entirely sure what all he was doing on guitar and in his songwriting but it was fresh. Kind of Delta blues crossed with post-punk angular guitar lines like Mission of Burma or something. And there was something resembling verses in the lyrics, but they had a structure all their own.

Right before the String Felons was The Return of the Bowlegged Gorilla. Those Gorilla had been tending lawns in Glendale, California for a few months. Working for an hour or so shirtless by the pool as idle wealthy female executives hopped up on prescription weight loss pills ogled his primal form.
Above is the Jersey Contingent that arrived. Tina is brandishing her copy of "Hairspray" that she just bought from Normal's. I promised her to one day get her one that is signed by the Low Lord of Baltmore himself, Herr Waters.
Probably the biggest surprise of the day was the appearance of former DC punk rocker and former Baltimore maneater Anne Bonafede. Back in 1982 when I first met Anne I was in a group called Neighbors' Children and eaten up with jealousy over Anne's old band Chalk Circle. They played one show and were on some WGNS cassette compilations and they were legendary!!! Anne played a wildly pounding poly-rhythmic drum battery while her best pal Sharon Cheslow (The Chez) beat out unpredictable chords on guitar.

As fate will occasionally throw us a good bone while wars spread like wildfire and wildfires spread like Mid-East wars, the amazing Oregon label Mississippi Records somehow found out about Chalk Circle (perhaps Ms. Cheslow's current notoriety in the LA free music scene?) and has released a full length lp of what is probably their entire recorded history, along with a generous beautifully done large booklet. There is a hilarious part in the booklet where Don Fleming of Velvet Monkeys and Dim Stars relates how he was blown away by catching Chalk Circle live. He approached Bonafede (who at that time looked like a cross between young Linda Ronstadt and The Cheshire Cat) and said that surely she must have been studying African poly-rhythmic drumming or something to come up with her unique style. Anne guilelessly responded that no, she was inspired by Tony DeFranco's "It's a Heartbeart, It's a Lovebeat".
Despite (or because of) a two night battle against a petulant panang curry, Normal's co-owner, Red Room impresario and graphic designer commando John Berndt performed a sweet saxophone solo.
Local brain wizards Megan McShea, Linda Franklin and Stephanie Barber soak in some 'Pants. Sweatpants have talked about moving into a new format of pipe organ, ukulele, Yes vocals processed through swimming pool filters and vibraphone, but for this show they were kicking out old school. Head trouser Adam Robinson of Publishing Genius Press even jumped from the bass drum and performed an impassioned version of Springsteen's "Racing In the Streets". The gent on the right from above stopped by the store to talk to me about some textbook sellling project and then the next thing he and I knew he was deep in the web of the 'Pants, intoxicated by their heavy musk.

All in all an enjoyable day and a successful sale (praise Allah!). It was even later reported that enigmatic magazine distributor Chris Stadler lost his lunch afterwards from drinking too much of the free party coffee from Dunkin' Donuts on an empty stomach and then going home wobbly to combat the queasiness with V-8 juice and Valerian root(?)

Normal's lives another day to push an exquisite second edition of Kafka's The Castle with intro by Thomas Mann across the counter and to hold out the hope that perhaps this year, this 22nd year of retail, could be the magical year that The Man Whose Ass Is Made of Cake will pull up in his convertible Lexus and for the very first time plunk down a five spot for a book.

Many thanks to all the beautiful folks who over the years have supported us, provided us with great informative conversation and/or sold their treasures to us. Despite the collapse of Western Civilization, the Unearthly Birth of the Kindle and the dumbing down of America, a used bookstore is still the best organism to live within.


  1. The Man Whose Ass Is Made of Cake!!

  2. If the unthinkable ever happened and Normal's closed I think I'd leave my fresh corpse draped over his Lexus convertible!