Gig Report: A Dispatch from the Fringe

The Berries were back at Art Bar’s friendly confines last night, for a show billed as “[Real City]’s Fringe Showcase”, and there’s a bit of a story behind that. A couple of months ago, the local alternapaper’s music listings mentioned the band Dr. Roundhouse in a less-than complimentary manner — not because of any particular performative failings, but because the previewer (who plays in another area band) just doesn’t care for their style of music. A bit of a teapot tempest arose, dealing with such issues as conflict-of-interest, the role of local music press in covering local bands, and the ethics of slagging a band in a preview, rather than a review — everyone agreed that if a band gives a bad show, the press should say so, but to blow them off in advance for what boils down to their accessibility seems out of bounds. One of the leading advocates for the Roundhousers was Pig Head Dog’s Bubbles Rubella, who put together a bill of bands that don’t quite fit into Real City’s critical mainstream. As a band that does our odd, 60s-driven kind of thing (and as a band that exists more or less in the no-man’s-land between the Midlands and Upstate, and as a band with members who range in age from mid-20s to 70), the Berries were a natural fit.

We were second on the bill, with the opening slot being occupied by our friends in Turbo Gatto. As ever, they were more fun than a barrel of mandrills, and the newlyweds Kevin (guitar, vox) and Gina (drums) overcame a couple of technical problems to lay their ailurophilic blend of the Stooges, Ramones, and White Stripes on a crowd that lapped it up like fresh cream (see what I did there?) It’s impossible to watch Turbo Gatto without sprouting a big, goofy grin.

After they cleared the stage, we brought our stuff on, and that’s when I discovered that I had left one of my cymbal stands (and the accompanying crash) back home in Mondoville. Fortunately, it’s not one I use very often at all — it’s at the far right of my kit, around the 4:00 position — and since I do most of my playing in the arc from 10 to 1 (with my vocal mike at the 9:00), it wasn’t a big loss.

We did our usual fifteen songs in 45 minutes, debuting a couple of new songs (Joseph’s “Who You Are” and my “Someone Else’s Girlfriend”), and the crowd really seemed to have a good time. In fact, by the time we got back from our post-set offload, we had sold out of our CD stock (which means we have to have some more made — but you can always download the album at our Bandcamp site) and had given away the last of our stickers (which means Justin has to design and print some more.) We even got a few calls for an encore, but since we weren’t the headliners, we didn’t want to step on another band’s time. Besides, best to leave folks wanting more, right? So we got our stuff out to our cars, and as Pig Head Dog was setting up, someone brought us a snare stand we had left behind, and Lex, our guitarist, carried it out to my van. That will be important a paragraph or two from now.

Pig Head Dog was debuting a new bassist, Brian “Juice” Barr (who doubles as a horror writer), and the set was filled with the usual moshing and mayhem, with a tilt toward the punky end of their “scumbag punk metal.” They broke out old favorites like “Emaciated Kim” and a couple of new tunes as well, and it’s cool to see them continuing to grow, while “the new guy” anchors the bottom end. By the set’s end, the band and audience were in a lather, the moshers and fans of hardcore were happy, and the rubber pig mask Bubbles had worn at the beginning of the set was hung up in the ceiling-mounted lighting rig. What else do you need?

At last, it was time for the headliners. But a couple of minutes before they were to start, Festus (the drummer for Pig Head Dog) came up to me and asked if I had somehow wound up with Dr. Roundhouse’s snare stand. (I told you that would matter.) A quick check of my van revealed that in fact, I not only had my Yamaha hardware, but had come into possession of their Tama stand. Oops — things can get confusing at these events. We got the stand back to its rightful owner, and it was time for Dr. Roundhouse to do their thing.

In the meantime, I was going outside to cool down a bit when I heard a couple of voices yell, “Dr. Moore!” I turned around just in time to get big hugs from a couple of former students, who had just happened into the venue without knowing that I had played there that evening. We caught up a little bit — they both seem to be leading interesting, happy lives, and one of them is engaged to a lovely young woman, while my big news from Mondoville is that we at last have a Taco Bell — while Dr. Roundhouse played a tight, groove-heavy set of danceable, bluesy rock. Good thing they had a snare stand — that’s much less dispensable than a spare cymbal. Sorry, guys!

As the set continued, I felt myself beginning to turn into a pumpkin, so I said my goodbyes and made my way back to Mondoville, getting to bed about a quarter past two this morning. So that’s another evening of my rock and roll moonlighting. We’ve got a show up in Simpsonville in a few weeks, and we’ll be back at Art Bar in April. And you know what? If this is the fringe, that’s not a bad place to be.

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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