Showing posts sorted by relevance for query lach. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query lach. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, August 08, 2019


Longtime readers of alicublog -- not to mention many, many citizens of New York and elsewhere -- know about Lach, the founder of the Anti-Folk scene and compère at its flagship The Fort in all its incarnations.

Well, things are exceedingly tough for Lach right now. I don't want to get too deep into it but it involves a very sick family member and the difficulty of keeping things together under such circumstances, especially for someone who makes a living in music. (Euterpe offers generous benefits but she pays lousy.)

So please pass it around: Thanks.

Friday, March 12, 2004

ENGLAND FIVE. The Nottingham show was at another smallish venue, The Maze at the Forest Tavern. Lach had a cold so,to preserve his voice, he skipped sound check and had our driver pick him up just in time for the performance, coming into the club as the openers finished with his sweatshirt hood fully over his head like a prizefighter before a bout. When he performed you couldn't tell he was sick. Whatta pro.

In contrast to the generally very flat Midlands travel, Nottingham is very hilly, with some streets just absurdly graded like those of San Francisco or Glasgow (thank God it wasn't raining). Around the club we saw a surprising amount of graffiti and a number of home alarm signs. Steve says Nottingham has the worst crime rates in England. Well, that's what happens when do-gooders like Robin Hood start weakening people's sense of personal responsibility.

On our day off, Lach went into London by train for his solo show to save the cost of keeping van and crew there overnight, so Bill and I knocked around Lincoln and finally made it up to that Cathedral we'd been threartening to visit. It's at the top of a steep hill and, unlike a lot of European cathedrals I've visited, serves as the architectural centerpiece of a really posh neighborhood -- with little shops (not tourist shops, but clothiers and chemists and so forth) and obviously upscale residential addresses nestled in narrow streets. Apparently the volunteers who run the Cathedral were not working, so Bill and I couldn't get inside the place, so we circled it to take in its mass, which is considerable. Again, that much carved stone in one place puzzles the modern mind: you have to believe in permanence a lot more than most of us do to fashion a thing like that. Unable to get at the guts, we went to a very nice pub called the Magna Carta and had a few pints of Banks's Bitter. The pub was quiet and the light was fading; through the windows the little buildings fell into silhouette and a nearby medieval wall -- this kind of thing is all over the place, apparently -- was smacked with floodlights from the ground, and the deep shadow this caused across its top made it seem like a large piece of theatrical scenery standing in front of a dark blue scrim.

That night we watched some of our Lincoln friends rehearse their band, and haunted with them a few more pubs. I was still not over this cold but I reckoned I'd be fucked if I'd let some germ prevent me from having pints with the good people of our English hometown.

The final show in London was at Barfly, the closest thing to CBGB I've seen around here: black walls, hard light, tiny dressing room with walls thick with graffiti. It was harder, I noticed also, to elbow your way through the crowd here: the punters stood their ground like New Yorkers. We smashed through the set in true urban-marauder manner, using manic energy to override fatigue, and received plaudits; a gaggle of girls made much of us and one of them kissed my cheek as I lugged the bass drum down the back steps, constituting my entire ration of road sex for this tour. Later we were invited to the apartments of another band to yammer about music and bang on guitars and drink, and that was something else I wasn't going to miss, tired as I was.

This is Friday and I am taking it easy. We're going home tomorrow. I have no urge to scrape up extra thrills. For the next eighteen hours or so everything around me will be London and my mind, being osmotic, will soak a good portion of it up and carry it back with me to New York.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

ENGLAND FOUR. Last night was Oxford. Now there's something I don't see every day, so right after load-in I took a long walk. Liberal education, foreign travel, and life in New York can somewhat innoculate you against overawe at European landmarks, but Jesus Christ: this University was founded in the Tenth Century. A lot of the buildings are far, far older than our Republic. All those spires, crenelations, and scarred oaken doors in one place! Yet the students are thoroughly modern in dress and manner. I thought they'd all be wearing green robes and mortarboards, and talking in Middle English. They do still favor bicycle travel, though: I must have seen eight hundred bicycles in a 90 minute walk. The Bodleian Library was closed but I accessed its courtyard through a five-foot-high opening in a tremendous wooden gate that seemed built to repel Barbarians. Oxford makes Columbia and Yale look like midwestern agricultural colleges.

Oxford had the smallest room we played, upstairs at a pub called Port Mahon. The pub is quite nice, warm maroon walls and a gas fireplace and Greene King IPA, and pretty quiet. Even in the side room with the pool table and the jukebox, sound didn't bounce and bang as it does in the bars I'm used to: I don't know if this is an acoustic function of English interior decoration, or just its psychological effect upon the patrons. Shaggy elders gathered at the wooden tables and some of them crouched over pints and books in the dim light and posed for my mental cliche image of British academic life. Showtime was early but last orders came mid-set, so Billy and I asked Steve from the stage to bring us pints; Lach told the band to stop playing and the crowd to freeze in place when he reentered; Steve, bless him, simply zipped through the surreal scene, deposited the pints, ran back to board, and shouted "Right, carry on." Small as the venue was, the crowd was attentive and Lach played them well. It could have been a rec room in America. No matter, all shows are special.

Billy got into the Scotch on the ride back. He told the radio, "Stop talking over the music, bitch." He challenged at length my assertion that the earth does not revolve around the moon. He was more agreeable when we got home and we watched together a bizarre film called The Journey, with Deborah Kerr, looking rather peaked, trying to get out of resistance Hungary against the amorous and outsized desires of a hardass Russian officer played by Yul Brynner. Bill's quite good at spot-the-actor so we discussed the careers of E.G. Marshall, Anne Jackson, and Robert Morley, among others. We should have gone to bed earlier -- Nottingham today -- but such moments make these tours even more fun than they should be.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

ENGLAND THREE. To cite Joe Strummer, London's burning, it seems from our vantage (that is, our van), but not with boredom now. Saturday night as we rode home to Lincoln from the third gig we observed tons of nightlife spilling out of or into bars, clubs, and pubs. The streets of Central London are for the most part not so brightly illuminated as New York's, giving the impression of a dark carnival: folks of all ages (but mostly young-looking at least), dressed either in impeccable gladrags or presentable yobwear, chatting animatedly, at cellphones or one another, and gravitating between glowing entryways. The ancient buildings that house these posh new places add to the air of mystery. If you saw Gangs of New York, and remember the candlelit blind tigers and music halls peeping out of the darkness, you have some idea. The interiors and some facades here may be thorough modern and colorful, but the sooty stone of London reaches back to Samuel Johnson.

We thought our show at the Arts Cafe at Toynbee Hall would be a dead loss. The room was small and part of some sort of Wilson-era council-funded complex for social improvement in the East End (the courtyard featured an especially ugly statuette of Jane Addams). It brought to mind the youth centers I'd played in the Netherlands, which were usually terrific; but this neighborhood (near Whitechapel) looked so bleak, stacked with grimy working-class housing projects and nearly depopulated at load-in, that I assumed in England these places were more like the youth centers popular in 1970s America: drop-in joints behind which one would smoke weed and plot a more exciting time somewhere else.

But it got interesting: there was a great assortment of bands -- one country-fried acoustic group, another with a cello and proper singing, a hilarious geezer-rap duo called Milk Kan ("I shot a man in Aldgate just to watch him die"). Their members were enthusiastic and encouraging to us; we applauded each other's sound checks! The room was packed and my friend and fellow NYC blogger Margaret, in town on holiday (Like the way I said that? "on holiday"? Don't I sound English?), showed up. We played hard and loose and the crowd was on our side. Most of them were really there for Bifteck, a terrifically powerful young groove-oriented band whose fans howled and mini-moshed for them, but they knew quality, by God, and gave us a fair hearing, bless them.

My favorite compliments are backhanded. "Saw you at the Borderline last time," said an industry guy. "I didn't like it. Too uptight. But this was brilliant."

Or maybe my favorite compliments are surreal. "Was he in Yes?" asked a young skinny feller, pointing at Lach.


"Me mate told me he was the guitarist in Yes."

"No. Someone's having you on. Lach was never in Yes."

"Me mate told me he was! I'm going to smash the cunt's face!"

He was smiling as he said this, I should note.

Not all is gravy. My cold is hanging on, and casts a mild pall on my normally ebullient self. Billy is tour-cranky, and became enraged this morning when I "stole" his bathtown. (Steve had given us each towels of the same color.) I'm played Leicester before and I can't imagine our Sunday night there will be super-exciting. But we're bringing the Rock to the Kids, and to that noble end some sacrifices must be made.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN. We have a "Summer of Sam" dog in our little corner of Williamsburg. (I refer to the dog whose ceaseless barking helped drive David Berkowitz to serial murder, at least in the Spike Lee movie.) At odd times of day or night this animal delivers a series of short, outraged barks that can go on for hours without variation in pitch or volume. The other night he went at it for some time till something went off that sounded like a BB-gun shot and he fell silent. I wondered if maybe that was the end of him.

The dog was still quiet late Saturday night when I went to play bass with the band at some new club in Manhattan. I had to take an amp -- a Randall Jaguar, borrowed months ago when my own rig began to blow farts and I couldn't pay to fix it (still can't) -- and, being hobbled by a sinus infection, eschewed the subway and hauled it in a livery car. I knew, by an instinct honed over long years of rock experience, that my pay from the show wouldn't cover the cost of the ride. It made me think of Chuck Berry in "American Hot Wax," when Alan Freed told him that the payroll for the performance he was about to give had vanished. "Well, rock 'n' roll's been good to me," said Berry, "I guess I'll do this one for rock 'n' roll!" (In reality, of course, Berry always counted out his bread, and probably checked each bill under a blacklight, before setting foot on stage.)

As I walked into the club, a gaggle of young women in downtown nightwear (all accessorized with noteworthy handbags) marched out of it, one of them announcing, "It's just too early! We can come back later!" The place turned out to be a former restaurant, gutted but not appreciably refurbished save for a lacquered little bar. Track lights were screwed into a scarred grey ceiling, and the bands set up at the far end of the filthy, checkered linoleum floor. A handful of people disconsolately wandered the darkened space. Punk and garage tunes played on the crummy sound system. It was like some of the old places I'd played, except the beers cost six dollars and no one seemed happy to be there.

We bashed out a set. I couldn't use my compressor because there weren't enough electrical outlets. I cranked my amp and made do. The bass drum of the small, borrowed kit Billy was beating was inaudible. There were no stage monitors. Lach's guitar sounded like a mandolin run through a boombox. We played, as had the Pinball Wizard, by sense of smell. Nonetheless we found a few grooves and I was drenched in sweat halfway through. But my mind wandered: Too much treble? Somebody's trying to dance, maybe I should push the beat -- too late, they stopped. I wish I'd taken a longer nap. Is this the thousandth show of my "career" yet? Will balloons fall from the ceiling if it is?

The club didn't pay us. Lach tried to slip me a few bucks, but I demurred. In these situations the high road is the only path that bypasses self-disgust.

Just as we were leaving a very tall woman took the dancefloor and jacked her body to "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place." She wore black hightops, black jeans, black t-shirt and black leather jacket; her hair was dyed black and matted and her pale face was kind and tired. Her jeans rode down on her ample hips a bit, displaying a gentle roll of fat. She reminded me of a girl I used to play music with years and years ago. She lived at Westbeth with her father. She was poetic and punkrock and every time I left her place after rehearsal I kissed her goodnight and she was always reclining and soft-featured when I did, but I only kissed her and took off, except for one time at a party, and I didn't see after that except one time years later, when we ran into each other in the waiting room of a discount psychotherapy place where we were both seeing shrinks, and she had several thin scars across both her arms.

I could easily have crashed when I got back home but I had a promise to keep. Earlier that evening I'd run into an old friend at the laundromat, and he'd told me that tonight was the last night of the Right Bank, a venerable bar at which I'd played back in the day. He'd said I should drop by, however late -- and do you know, as old as the claim of the place was on me, I felt it still. So I washed my face and wandered out.

The Right Bank was emptying out when I got there. Those who remained were of a familiar sort -- young hipsters in rockstar jerseys and flared denim jeans, older demimonders in eccentric hats, a cute and popular bartender in a short, polka-dotted vintage dress and dreadlocks and tattoos who was cheerful and theatrical with everyone and was like that all the time, I guessed, except for the hours and days when she could do nothing but cry and take drugs. The few people I knew talked to me about the things they were doing these days. One was doing campy plays in outlying districts of Los Angeles and working her connections to get an advice column in one of the New York papers -- "because the younger people don't know how to be fabulous," she told me as her boyfriend, an apparently recent college grad, buried his face in her neck. "Like for example, they don't know how that you should wear a big hat. There's a new editor at the New York Press, they were snarky for a while. I want to write about how young people try to take over your personality, like in 'All About Eve,' except for real. Do you know what I mean?" That was the only time she, or anyone else there, asked for my response to anything. The room was like a hangar in which small, brightly-colored egoes hovered.

When I got back to my apartment that dog was barking again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

AGAINST ORDERS. Every couple of years I haul out the Lester Bangs comp Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung for pleasure's sake. With each reading a little more melacholy accrues. Not so much over his early demise -- that's sad, but Bangs was in a way lucky (as Greil Marcus' pretended message from beyond the grave suggests) to be spared what we got after the deluge.

Bangs, as you may know, was the great chaos theorist of rock music. In the early 70s he glommed onto the nuttiest music he could find. He pleaded the case for Iggy back when Iggy was a joke. He championed the Godz because they were so totally fucked up, and after declaring mellow-rock king James Taylor "marked for death," he softened toward the guy just on the grounds of general fucked-upness ("Just look at him on the cover of One Man Dog, out in a canoe with his mutt, wearing a necktie even which is a cool move at this point in time. Or those pictures of him at the McGovern benefits, in an oversize sportcoat..."). When he loved artists, like Lou Reed and Richard Hell, he rode their asses mercilessly just for the snap- or smash-back; he asked Reed questions like, "When you recorded Berlin, did you think people would laugh at it?" Who would ask Reed anything like that now?

Bangs didn't want catharsis, he wanted agon, because he knew rock and roll was, or was supposed to be, the irritant from which came the pearls. Of course, too much can be made of this. One has to be careful about celebrating any life that was so quickly washed away by Darvon and Romilar. Self-destruction is not cool. Well, no, it is cool, actually, much cooler than spa treatments and star treatment certainly, but once you adopt that yardstick you find that that the life by which you measure it gets smaller every day, until it's roughly the size of a cemetary plot. Which is why Iggy himself finally had to turn against his own personal tide and stop beating his brains, beating his brains, with liquor and drugs. And maybe why I got the feeling, riding one night in another van full of gear out of town and hearing on the radio news of Kurt Cobain's death, and hearing all around me people asking why, and hearing a voice in my head asking "why not," that I myself got the idea to get out of the game.

Still, this paradox obtains: moderation can get out of hand. Everything in our public life has tended toward an increase in order for a number of years, and while we all enjoy the benefits, and are lectured on several bases that going even a hair in the other direction would most hurt the most vulnerable among us -- the poor, the weak, the children -- we have to acknowledge that this civic rehabilitation has not been without cost. To stay with the topic just a little, if you think concerts are as good now as when people were getting routinely fucked up, you're dreaming. I am tempted to cite Bill Hicks ("You think the Beatles weren't high when they made 'Yellow Submarine'? They had to scrape Ringo off the ceiling for that one!"). But I am averse to the argument from authority. I would only suggest you look at the record, or at the records.

I remember when you couldn't go to an outdoor classical concert in New York without hearing the announced name of the corporate sponsor booed lustily by the crowd. (This was well before you had to have a pass to get onto the Great Lawn to see the likes of Dave Matthews.) I was reminded of this by Bangs' essay about a 1977 Tangerine Dream concert at Avery Fisher Hall (!!), at which event spectators screamed obscenities at celebrity DJ presenter Alison Steele the Nightbird -- and we liked Alison Steele! Bangs himself, on assignment and cough syrup, treated the event as an occasion for psychedelic ramblings, judging the unruly crowd and his hallucinations superior as subjects to the music (though of that he was neither unmindful nor ineloquent). "So finally, picking up my coat and lugging my clanking cough-syrup bottles, I push my way through the slack and sprawling bodies -- out, out, out into the aisle. As I am walking up it, I am struck by an odd figure doddering ahead of me, doubled over in ragged cloth and drained hair. I don't trust my Dextromethorphaned eyes, so I move closer until I can see her, unmistakably, almost crawling out the door... a shopping bad lady!" Again, one can make too much of it, but that sounds like a pretty good show to me.

Just today I picked up this message from my old pal Lach:
I went out this week to a local music venue (doesn't matter which one, that's not the point) and was asked for ID at the door. Now, this alone pisses me off as I don't drink. If I order a whiskey, ID me, but why do I have to be 21 to hear a singer/songwriter perform? Anyway, what happened next astounded me. The door guy wanted to swipe my license through an electronic reader and download the information into the scanner! What the fuck?!? Did you know NYS licenses carry info like your social security number, address, tel. no., etc? Identity theft potential aside, what an extreme invasion of privacy just to hear music. The bar manager said that the police pressured them into using the device...
Giuliani, that fuck, knew what he was doing when as mayor he strictly enforced the City's ancient cabaret laws, and Bloomberg, that cunt, knows what he's doing, too, with this shit. Order's a popular electoral gambit. People squawk when you hit them up for tax money, but applaud your sense of responsibility when you dig your entrenching tool into the pleasure centers.

When you read, as any ordinary internet trawler will, fulsome odes to the iPod and the pay-per-view concert, please try to keep in mind that things were once way more fucked up. And seriously consider whether that means they were worse.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

PUT IN MY PLACE. Sasha & Andrew's Roundtable pointed to this "Which Band Member Are You?" quiz, so I went and took it. The result you see here. I started out as a guitarist and lead singer, but the past few years of holding down the bottom for Lach have apparently mutated my personality. (It's easy for anyone familiar with musicians, or musician jokes, to see which way the test responses would lead, and I must say that had I taken the quiz in my chandelier-swinging six-string days, I certainly would have obtained a different result.)

Like Peter Boyle said in Taxi Driver, a man does a thing and then he becomes what he does. I'm not sure I believe in destiny, but today more than yesterday I do believe in habit.