Friday, August 19, 2011
Returning to the enchanted land outside time known as Shakemore and seeing the great unique people who inhabit it, I was reminded of Serge Gainsbourg's famous quote, "Beauty fades, but ugliness lasts forever". Except in this I wanted to paraphrase it to say "Normalcy crumbles, but weird endures".
(Below is the esteemed Randy Austin Jr. who rocks my world with his pedal steel playing in The Go Pills.)
The two Shakemores that I've been lucky enough to attend partly featured weather drama of Biblical proportion. Last year the heat clocked in at 110 and up there in the rough hills of Westminster it became so hot that even the waves of the pool caught fire at one point, singeing the flesh off of a few of the unfortunate swimmers. Some onlookers driven mad by the extraordinary temperatures skewered some of the floating cooked flesh and devoured it like hyenas as The Junkyard Band played a fine chaos on stage.
The worst tragedy of that day though, was that even the fabled waist length, Jim Morrison-like, locks of poet Chris Toll were seared off by the violence of the angry sun's rays. To this day they have not grown back and it's become apparent that he bears a striking resemblance to Vladimir Lenin.
(Below is not the newly hairless Chris Toll, but longtime Baltimore bon vivant, Shakemore newbie, Warren "Goldfiinger" Greenberg.)
(Below is Selena performing as Animal Eyes.)
This year was a trial by water, but nothing could shake the blissed out dispositions of the Edenic crowd. Or rattle the high energy positive antics of emcee Babs The Roman who had to wrangle the ever shifting Blob of the schedule. It's amazing how she keeps revved up for over 12 hours giving each act a psychic Elvis cape to wear to bring them comfort and courage.
Ricardo Dreyfus of Spidercake and Half Japanese made the t-shirts and banners along with playing in two or three bands.
This year St. David of Half Japanese Fair himself asked She Bites to perform, having heard that we crawled from our hoary crypt for the momentous event of Everly's and my wedding party. It's been funny revisiting the rollercoaster of emotions that is She Bites. Now without drinking, my back hair a full Turkish rug, the upper register I love to seek out, sometimes in vain, even more of a Whack-a-Mole proposition.
We, like many of the groups scheduled earlier when the torrential downpours were happening, screwed up the schedule by not being assembled on time. In fact, I had figured we weren't even going to get to play, not being able to get in touch with Pope and the hours advancing. So I had put on my seersucker suit and was kicking back with a lemonade, thinking "Enough electric waves of anxiety, it's Tourist Time!"
But play we did and I never thought I would see such faces of anger at gentle Shakemore. I think a lot of the youth were too young to have been battered by the songs we cover being played over and over on their car radios or at tragic, awkward moments in their teen years (since they were right now experiencing them) and they merely saw an old balding man in a dress singing along to a good keyboard player.
We started out slightly rough, opening with the fantastic Irma Thomas song "It's Raining". We had just worked on it a few nights before and figured we should open with it because of the weather. No brainer, eh? But we kicked into the zone during Skeeter Davis' "End of the World" and I personally think "At 17" that day was the best version we ever did. I was calmed and excited to see Chris Mason close by the stage grinning during our set and David Fair whirling with his wife. When the angry mob saw these icons expressing approval they swallowed their bloodlust and hid their shivs back in their cut-off jeans and cargo shorts.
And after the set poet Cliff Lynne, who is also a highly paid secret agent whose hands are registered weapons that even caused Dick Cheney to wet himself when Cliff shook his hands at the Pentagon, came up to me wide-eyed and said "Wow, I didn't know you sang!" And then he punched me. It took the high energy manic bluegrass punk of From the Hills to stir me from the sodden ground.
John Moreman, the gifted as all hell guitarist who played with Half Japanese during the "Charmed Life" period and who has been laying down the hooks with them of late, did extra duty this year with Bag 5 and The Naybros. Sadly I didn't stick around long enough this year to catch Bag 5.
(Photo below is by Lloyd Wolf of guitarist John Moreman from Half Japanese, The Naybros and Bag 5.)
Last year I chewed on and swallowed up the whole fest. Took it in and ran on it like a vitamin enriched acid tab. But this summer has been a brutal one of retail survival and I was up late over-caffeinating the week before, so after She Bites played and I caught a few acts, I deflated and faced the fact that I just didn't have it in me this year.
But as poet Father Beaudouin said, "It's about the people" and I got to have my magic Shakemore moment talking with my friend, who I will only refer to here as S., who had just finished up one of the Johns Hopkins psilocybin studies. Her study was centered around spirituality and she had two "sessions" of ingesting psycho-active mushrooms in capsule form, blindfolded listening to a mix tape of music that the doctors had made specifically for the trajectory of the psychic journey.
S. said that she met before the ingestion with the two guides and formed a relationship with them so that she would have trust and communion with them when she was launched into the Ether. As soon as I saw her walk across the dewy field of Shakemore from her car I could see that her already normally sparkling sorceress eyes were kicked up a few more notches of laserbeam. She was downright giddy and said it was one of the greatest spiritual events of her life.
She and D. stayed throughout the entire festival, which didn't end until around 3am this year because of the rain wrangled schedule, and she disappeared for many midnight hours with only a grin and a glowstick and at the end of Half Japanese's blistering set D. discovered her perched like the mysterious owl of Smamot on the top of the center tent pole. Some would later swear that she had the hairpiece of Bob Ehrlich in her mouth.
Below is the rather goat-headed wild gent from the Westminster bluegrass punk group that I think is called From the Hills. This great photo is also by Lloyd Wolf.