Ok, so yesterday was showcasing an event from 2000, so let’s wiggle ourselves up just a year for the 2001 Vans Warped Tour. Featured (in Milwaukee) at this event were The Ataris, Pinhead, Guttermouth, The Vandals, The Misfits, Kool Keith (yes, THAT Kool Keith), Hank Williams III, Bouncing Souls, Rancid, Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies, AFI, 311, and of course, no early 2000’s riot event is complete without Less Than Jake. It was a-hell-of-a-lot-of-fun, as you can imagine, and I’m happy to have held on to this little piece of personal, entertainment history.
When the Blue Meanies are headlining over Alkaline Trio, you know you’re in the early 2000’s. Thanks to Mike Park (owner and creator of Asian Man records, and saxophone player for Skankin’ Pickle) for organizing this awareness show “promoting positive youth development through engagement in the arts and social change.” The foundation appears to be still going strong, and you can check out more about them here.
So, we missed the 2000 window by little over three months, but this live performance by quirky kings, BS 2000 was well worth the wait. Having grown up a Beastie Boys fan, I quickly began exploring any and all side projects by any and all members of the band. When BS 2000 released their second album (of two), 2000’s Simply Mortified, our hopes of a small, yet local tour were happily met with a rocket of anticipation. Seeing Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) and AWOL (Amery Smith) jam on a pair of keyboards and jumping around like fools was perfect for a much-needed mid-week show at The Rave in Milwaukee. This was 17 years ago now, but a handful of vivid memories from this evening will never be forgotten.
The Promise Ring’s debut album, 1996’s 30° Everywhere is, was, and will forever be the soundtrack to dark and dreary winter evenings in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Originally released on Jade Tree Records in a variety of colors (blue, grey, red, white, yellow…), this 12-track opus is considered an integral part of emo’s second wave. Most scoff at the term emo, and they’re not necessarily wrong, as the term has ballooned into absurd and embarrassing proportions, but this album, this band, at that time… well, there was little better.
(Very) likely acquired from Atomic Records (Milwaukee, WI) around the summer of 2001, this perfectly preserved Rocket from the Crypt logo sticks prominently on the office “coffee table.” A few other random bits and bobs linger around and throughout (needed to keep that organic Dole sticker), but this off-center design is one of my favs. RIP Atomic Records, and thanks for the free schwag!
Little known fact… I did not know that Steve Miller, Milwaukee, WI native, was the Godson of guitar legend Les Paul. I’m not surprised, per se, but it is an interesting fact. It just so happened that I found The Steve Miller Band’s sophomore studio album (pictured here) at a Goodwill near the Milwaukee area, some several years ago. With a beautiful cover, Sailor featured the last appearance from original band member, Boz Scaggs. The more you know.
Back in 1997, alligator-fighting, pop-punk Floridians Less Than Jake released their third studio album titled, Hello Rockview. 1998, in all its majestic glory, saw a reissue of Rockview in a 7x 7″ box set, featured here. It shames me, but I haven’t heard this album (series of 7″ records) in nearly 20 years, having purchased it from a forgotten record shop in Milwaukee, roughly around that time. I’ve sold many records, for many reasons, throughout the years, but I’ve kept this box set. Something (something?) tells me, it was for good reason.
It’s sad, but just over 15 years ago, BS 2000 dropped their 2nd, and last LP, Simply Mortified. Grand Royal Records would, months later, cease to exist, and receptive ears of the world would never again hear the bubblegum grunge of BS 2000. One can only imagine what they’d sound like today, given the almost two decades of maturity (or utter lack there of), but there’s something peaceful about this short-lived outing that demands incessant spins on random Tuesday evenings. Nobody beats BS 2000, kids.
For their third album, Milwaukee natives Violent Femmes veered toward a more pop-influenced and mainstream radio-focused offering with their 1986 release, The Blind Leading the Naked. The first of their albums produced by someone other than Mark Van Hecke, TBLTN featured the production skills of Talking Heads’ keyboardist, and fellow Milwaukee native, Jerry Harrison. Featuring the mild hit Children of the Revolution, and the fan(tastic) fav, Old Mother Reagan, TBLTN was the first album by the band to chart on Billboard, followed by 1989’s 3, 1991’s Why Do Birds Sing?, and 1994’s New Times. Nothing beats 1983’s self titled debut in my opinion, but decent Violent Femmes is better than no Violent Femmes at all.
My history with the famed prodigy of sensual sleaze is both long and enduring. Having accidentally stumbled across his sexual shtick back in 2000 at a sold out Alkaline Trio / Hot Water Music show at a now unknown Chicago club, my 21-year-old self couldn’t quite comprehend exactly what the hell this beefy, golden-voiced Midwesterner was doing up on stage between sets. His passion and talent eclipsed the belly laughs and sneers from the late winter crowd, and I was instantly struck with a rush of awe and morbid curiosity. I believe he played two songs that night, one of them being an early favorite (thanks to this “show”) Baby Do You Like My Clothes?
This album, Har Mar Superstar’s first, features the two bonus tracks, Wet Lovin’ and Sexual Contractor, and was acquired at the now defunct Atomic Records in Milwaukee. I distinctly remember a brief conversation with the store clerk and his overt disdain for my purchase. To each their own.
Underneath the wet and slippery layer of erotic bravado is an imaginative and intelligent songwriter with a beautiful voice, and the zeal of a thousand burning suns. Go in for the laugh, come out with overwhelming appreciation.
… is an amazing tale of simpleminded, cold-winter-sickness, enveloped within a nightmare of rural, solemn depression, and disguised as a folk-pop song from the great state of Wisconsin (phew… I’m getting too old for the run-on sentence). Arguably the Violent Femmes’ best, most well-rounded track, Country Death Song depicts the extravagant path, a 1000mph highway drive straight past the gnarly gates of hell, and tells the tale of a one-way ticket of blameful sorrow for a troubled father and his shameful, selfless, fatherly actions. Is it a good song? Ye-ah! Is it a happy song? Nope! Merry Christmas eve, kiddos!
Gone are the leisure-filled days of stopping off at the local record shop on the way home from school to snatch, if no necessary deals were found, free mock-ticket ads for upcoming Milwaukee area shows. This particular night in May of 2000 featured a masked gimp stage diving and picking fights with select, drunk patrons (Dwarves), a wall-echoing, room-filled chant of East Coast pride (“East Coast F— You” by Bouncing Souls), and an eager and overly-excited pop-punk-loving Milwaukee crowd rushing the stage to share the mic for a final encore (Dropkick Murphys). All-in-all, it was a rather memorable, aggression exhausting evening some 14 years ago.
I’d also like to add how atrocious it is to post from the WordPress app via iPhone. A hiccup in the Cal Ripkin-like post streak was in jeopardy more than a few times these past few days…
It had been two, LONG years since I’d last seen Rocket from the Crypt in concert. I had been living in Milwaukee for little over a year at this point, and in that time, when San Diego’s finest came within driving distance (essentially any venue in any state bordering Wisconsin), you dropped whatever you were doing and you got your ass to the show.
This was the third time I’d seen Rocket from the Crypt, and before even fueling up the car to head some 90+ miles into Illinois territory, I had already made up my mind that, amid the enormous amount of live acts I’d seen up to that point, no other experience had topped the raw and ecstatic vigor of Rocket from the Crypt. I’ve seen a plethora of shows since that cloudy spring day, and my assessment has since proved to be 100% accurate.
Being an avid Refused fan and never having the esteemed opportunity to see them perform live, my youthful self was barely able to contain the restless fever of seeing Refused’s frontman, Dennis Lyxzén and his new, post-Refused band, The (International) Noise Conspiracy. To see a fraction of Refused open up for the greatest live act I had, and would ever see, was enough to blow the feeble mind of my 21-year-old self.
I escaped the evening intact, but only barely. It would be exactly 3 months (July 21, 2001) until I saw Rocket from the Crypt again, and I had to close the Hollywood Video where I worked an hour and a half early in order to do so, but that’s a story for another time.
Twisted Sister, to a five-year-old in rural Wisconsin, was a bit of an eye-opening spectacle. Back before the (ridiculously) small town in which I grew up (1200 open air loving residents) collectively banned MTV from the township limits, the roots of my rebellious nature were beginning to seep into the ground of my shielded childhood. Twisted Sister’s classic video to We’re Not Gonna Take It was always a personal favorite, for many adolescent reasons, and it acts as a significant, early-adulthood bridge to the burgeoning days of my foolish innocence.
So, I’m an early 20-something attending the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and working at Hollywood Video. Remember brick and mortar video stores? Neither do I. Anyway, I was closing up the store one hot, summer evening and a guy approached the check-out with a movie I’ve long since forgotten. I greeted this man with both a courteous smile, and curious stare. The man was Mark Metcalf, the legendary barking father from the We’re Not Gonna Take It video. I didn’t call him out, as you can possibly imagine, celebrities of any caliber, NEVER walk into a Hollywood Video on Milwaukee’s north side. I worked there for another year or so, and never saw Mr. Metcalf again, but I’ll never forget that immediate wave of childhood warmth felt only for those 30-odd seconds.
Look, I’m just gonna go on the record and say that Stay Hungry still holds up! I don’t care who mocks, scorns, maligns, or even shin-kicks. My favoritism towards Dee Snider, Mark Metcalf, Twisted Sister, and this striking album is not unlike a bonfire that’s been burning for nearly 30 years, and every delicate spin of this angst-ridden album adds more fuel to that never-ending flame.
Understanding that a groove is relevant only to a record and does not, in any case pertain to the spools of a cassette tape, I, via ways of inadvertent and very magic-like slight of hand, attempt to fool your senses in discussing a nostalgically important glimmer of rural mid-western indie-pop music… before the term indie was, well, indie. (How’s that for the recommended number of commas for those comma-touting liberals? #sniff) Cassettes need love too, so today The Prudent Groove will temporarily change its name to The Prudent Spool.
Illinois to Wisconsin is like Republicans to Democrats… or Democrats to Republicans, depending on where you align your morals. (The Prudent Spool doesn’t, as of yet, publicize its political alliances.) There was a batch of amazing music emerging from both states during the early 1990’s. The Smashing Pumpkins; remember them? They recorded their debut album, Gish (produced by Butch Vig), at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. The mid-90’s brought Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring and their absolutely perfect debut, 30° Everywhere.
While south of the line that divides the cheese heads from the FISH, bands like Braid, Lard, Slapstick and the alternative (again, before the term was branded and incorporated) and very groove-heavy 7-track cassette (the name of which I’ve never known) by the locally infamous cats, Vacuum Scam. The Scam sounded like an amped-up, pop-punk version of early Pearl Jam if you know, Pearl Jam were ever any good. To say they were crunchy guitar driven is to ignore their brilliant ability to create melodies so painfully catchy, yet with the ability to sound fresh with each new listen. They were a SOLID unit, and to this day I’m scouring the earth, emailing the band, convincing my High School friends to search their junk drawers for the original 7-track cassette. It’s been 17 years and my search has turned up nothing.
Adrian, or DJ Mr. Brown as he is internationally known, introduced me to these 7, anxiety-ridden-jam tracks. You see, back in the day, cassettes were the thing. You could, well, I guess what 2013 would call the loathingly media-heavy adjective, “pirate,” tracks onto a “mix tape” that personally represented the “recent break-up mood” mix, the “my folks don’t let me go out on Friday nights and I’m fuggin’ pissed about it” mix, or even your “big bro says this is necessary listening material” mix. A mixed CD before mp3s, for those of you who remember what it was like before the internet. I dubbed these 7 tracked from someone who dubbed them from someone else who had the original tape. I’ve always been thankful that Adrian introduced me to the Scam (and endless other essential music). I managed to burn the cassette to CD before returning his dubbed copy, so I’m still able to enjoy the memories of my Senior year of high school anytime I choose.
The affection I have towards my addiction (of collecting records) is not unlike a relationship. A relationship filled with ecstasy and hopeless bleak despair. Looking back at my nearly 20-year relationship (fugg I’m old!), certain milestones come to mind that mark my progression/devolution. Like for instance, my first record store.
One never forgets their first time.
It was, and is still called Mad City Music Exchange and was, and is still located on Willy St. (Williamson St.) a few blocks from the State Capitol in Madison, WI. It was here where I began to build my (nearing completion) Beastie Boys discography, where I obtained my Big Rig 7” (Jesse from Op Ivy’s band after Op Ivy), and whose owner agreed to be interviewed by a High School Senior version of me for a fictitious record store I was to own and operate for a Marketing project. I’ll never forget his response after I gleefully informed him that I too wanted to own and operate an independent record store. His reply, “Why would you want to do a thing like that?”
As with many relationships, things just don’t work out. There is the whole “growing apart” thing, the “I dig your store but not your prices, so, you know, let’s just be friends” thing, and the “common necessity for relocation” thing. (THAT’S IT! THOSE ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT DOOM A RELATIONSHIP! I kid.) So when opportunity (and my parents) moved me to Milwaukee, I was in desperate need of finding a new lover; a pusher for my audio starved addiction.
Enter Atomic Records.
Atomic Records was then, what Hollywood’s legendary Amoeba Music is now. If you’ve been to Amoeba in Hollywood, you get an idea of what I’m talking (writing) about. Atomic was my one-stop-shop for just about everything! Sleeves, Rocket from the Crypt stickers, tickets to BS 2000 shows, rare UK Zines, Christmas gifts for my father (who also collects records), my Har Mar Superstar picture disc, t-shirts, and sometimes live acoustic shows by nearby Chicago bands.
I’d stop in at Atomic 3-4 times a week while attending UW Milwaukee. There was something romantic about that shop in the dark winter months. With warm, inviting lights and the childlike anticipation of finding a coveted gem, Atomic almost acted like a temporary dose of sanity while helping me to forget about the death that is winter in Wisconsin. It was a safe haven, if only at 30-minute increments.
After leaving Milwaukee and moving to the much more mentally sustainable environment of Southern California, I found other record shop relationships and all but forgot about my brief, but prodigious admiration towards Atomic Records.
She’s gone now; closed her doors in 2009, and with it a chapter of my life that is just as important as the current chapter I’m attempting to write with The Prudent Groove.
Atomic may not have been my first, but she was arguably the best and, one I will certainly never forget.
RIP Atomic Records.
I feel as though I need to explain myself a bit. When coming up with topics here at The Prudent Groove, I need a touch of inspiration. Since I have over 2600 albums to choose from, the number of options gets to be daunting and ultimately discouraging. In other words, I need to be moved in order to write about something. So last night I’m at the grocery store, right? I see a sale on individually wrapped cheese sticks, 3 for $0.99. Decent price, ok, cool. Instantly, the hamster inside my head begins to churn, “Well, each stick is roughly $0.33 1/3 cents… Cheese… 33 1/3 RPMs… I SHOULD WRITE ABOUT LESS THAN JAKE’S CHEESE RECORD!” And with that thought, this post was born.
Leave it to Florida natives, Less Than Jake to dairy-ify an 80’s classic like Twisted Sister’s, We’re Not Gonna Take It. Limited to 1000 copies, this glorified 2 track 7” is aged to perfection and is now a ripe 15 years old (having been released in 1998). I purchased this copy at one of the many Less Than Jake performances I attended in Milwaukee. I think Kemuri was the opening band, but I don’t’ remember. What I DO remember is catching hell from my buddy, Neal for not picking up a LTJ Cheese record for him… I still feel bad about that to this day. (Religious guilt.)
The music is straightforward Ska-Punk-Pop that LTJ is known for. Rage, then break for horns… Rage, then break for horns… End. It sounded better when I was 19.
Side A: Cheese
Side B: We’re Not Gonna Take It
It’s interesting how certain bands spawn specific memories, be it however mundane or insignificant. For me, Twisted Sister has always been linked to the Hollywood Video in Milwaukee where I used to work. On one of my shifts, Mark Metcalf (The Maestro on Seinfeld) came in to rent a video and even though I had to look up his name, I distinctly recognized him as the pissed off, music hating father from the We’re Not Gonna Take It video. I think that song, this record, and video renting in general will always be intertwined within the vast, vacant openness that is my brain. What does that have to do with Less Than Jake? Absolutely nothing, and I’m fine with that.
“We’re not gonna take it!” You’re not gonna’ take it?! Really? You’re not gonna’ take cheese?!!! Who wouldn’t take cheese? Are you lactose? This breaks a Wisconsin boy’s heart!
Notice the two types on the insert.