Yesterday, my ceiling collapsed. I cut shit from the hair of a dog’s ass. I coughed and hacked and shivered and wheezed until I turned green and then I did it again.
Today I’m in Pittsburgh, ducking beer cans. Cheap Meats is playing “Vigilante” and the smell of gasoline from the slat fire out back would be close to overwhelming if it weren’t for Helter Shelter’s standing aroma of sweat, booze and humanity.
Beer and Cable
Oh look, I’m bleeding.
Goddamn, Cheap Meats is amazing. Fast, loud and out-of-hand. I’d missed them the last time they were in town which is a shame because everybody got rad t-shirts and then climbed a small mountain of cocaine.
I’m here now and that’s what counts.
I rode for seven hours in a fifteen-person van with ten punks, their sleeping bags, backpacks and gear with nothing to offer but pork rinds, porn stories and the punny mind-fucks of Will Shortz games to validate my place. I’ve never been in a band. I’m not playing roadie. Not selling merch. I just came along as a friend, as a fan and I almost missed that opportunity by falling prey to my earlier (legitimate, I think) laments until I got a text from B (Beer and Cable’s pizza-loving bassist) which read simply:
“Come rock, you pussy. No excuses.”
So I popped some Bronkaid, grabbed my camera and an extra pair of underwear and got my ass to the “party van”.
We left at 11am…or thereabouts. I was a bit out of sorts thanks to the gasping and ephedrine so all I really know is that I showed up in the morning and we left sometime shortly after pancakes.
“What time is rock o’clock in Pittsburgh?”
“I don’t know.”
“Whenever we show up?”
“I guess we’ll just have to make it by then.”
And so we did. With 144 beers to our name and three shitty cheese pizzas. We made it and we made friends and after the fire started and a the locals showed up with whom we talked, at great length, about the only black metal band in Pittsburgh and the twisted Pentacostal genius of the Insane Clown Posse whose Gathering of the Juggalos would be our next great field trip.
“Have you seen the video for Miracles?”
“Yeah…like…they got all these fucking kids to believe in killer clown rapists and then they’re all like JESUS!”
“And then everyone threw bottles of piss at Tila Tequila.”
“And rocks and shit.”
“Actual human shit.”
“Then she showed her tits.”
“Next year, we’re there.”
Some very decent band called Brass Chariot offered up noise rock in a way that hasn’t been played since Pussy Galore last sniffed their way through town on the heels of Big Black Cheap Meats got to playing.
So here we are.
And it’s fucking great. Wet, bruising and glorious. Everyone’s drunk as shit.
Beer and Cable close the show. Costumed with anthemic tirades to…well, beer and cable and an innate hatred of all things Tom Hanks (“NO THANKS!” the song says and no matter how much you loved The Money Pit, you have no choice but to agree with the man in the remote control and cape and crown of the keg or the bottle or the pizza or the PBS/Schlitz drumming machine).
“You should start a fucking band, man. Seriously.”
“But I don’t know how to play a goddamn instrument…or sing.”
“Who fucking needs to? We don’t know how to play what we’re playing. Shit, the only person in the band whose playing their actual instrument is Aaron and that’s just a fucking coincidence.”
Aaron is the keg. He was in the Stoics, the X-Possibles, Molotov Cocktail and god knows however many other bands I’ve let melt my ears. Everyone else in Beer and Cable was in other bands before aside from the singer. 241ers, etc. You might want to know that, but you shouldn’t give a shit because Beer and Cable are their own beast and I’ve been loving their melee since their first gig in the Charleston basement.
Short, fast and sweaty. Kin to Cheap Meats in every way imaginable except they’ve got the costumes going for them so imagine a mix between GWAR, Tesco Vee and late night infomercials on disused amphetamines.
That is, their songs are faster.
“We’re Beer and Cable from New York City.”
“I DOUBT THAT VERY FUCKING MUCH!” comes the response from a shit-canned jean vest would-be molester who has been complimenting girls’ shirts in hopes of a kiss.
“Well, fuck you, then.”
More songs. More falling. More beer.
And in fifteen minutes it’s over and we’re more than halfway through our 144 which means we get to load up and off to another house where we’ll be spending the night and there we find more beer, box wine, some vodka and marijuana and pretty soon everything’s swirling and I’m rallying against the Pixies again.
“Seriously…you fucking telling me you listen to the B Side of Doolittle? You’re fucking lying.”
“What about the Breeders?”
“Man, fuck the Breeders.”
“No, I’m drunk and the Breeders fucking suck and so does Frank Black and all his fucking records about aliens and LA bullshit and fucking Steve Albini fucking said that they were fucking COLLEGE man. COLLEGE!”
“No, dick. I mean…maybe.”
That’s when I fall down and decide maybe it’s time to crawl out to the van where I’ll sleep a few hours and then wake up and go in search of a donut at 6am which is no small feat in Pittsburgh and after an hour all I’ll find is Gatorade and candy bars and a big bag of Cheesy Poofs which I’ll eat the shit out of and consider a sufficient substitute for dinner.
This is not the worst idea I’ve ever had.
Some short time later (I have a watch but I don’t want to read it), the sun is up. I’m under someone’s sleeping bag and in the night decided it was best to use my jacket and a half-empty bag of chips and a water bottle for a pillow. My head is pounding and I can’t remember how or where to piss. I figure out which house we belong to, crawl in and find a bleary eyed bunch of wunderkinds shakily rolling up their beds and picking up the empty cans.
“Man, I didn’t know you were a fucking cuddler.”
“It’s fine. I just wished I’d known is all.”
“I guess I like to be cozy.”
Off to breakfast, then. Bacon and Bloody Maries. It’s a buffet. Most of us dive right in. Others peruse the menu.
“Who’s getting the Statutory Grape?”
“What’s in it?”
“Grape vodka and…um…”
“I think I’ll just have a tea.”
“MAN! They have bacon Tuesdays.”
“I don’t think we’ll be coming back for that.”
We double up on drinks, believing hair of the dog might save us all. Have all the coffee we can stomach but no one can take a shit which is a concern because we’ve got five hours to Philly and then we’re driving straight home again.
The ride is quiet. The ride is sleepy. The ride is grey and straight and ominous. Some of us cough, the rest of us pretend we don’t notice or care or feel like our spines are about to melt and pour out of our dicks.
That’s the price you pay for the terminal party. We drank all the beer. We smoked all the weed. We finished the wine and the vodka and the cigarettes and now we feel like total shit and nothing can fix this but a nap in our beds, alone with nothing but the warmth of the TV playing in another century.
But there’s no chance of that today so we stop off for Popeye’s and ice cream.
“It’s called Moose Tracks. Want a lick?”
“What’s in it?”
“Fudge and peanut butter.”
“I don’t want fudge in my moose knuckles.”
So, we’re off. There’s a fucking show to play and we’re going to fucking make it. We have to. It’s our calling. We’re obliged.
So a few hours later, we pull into Philly. We get some Indonesian cuisine and then off to J.R.’s. A bar somewhere in the southside where there’s nothing…fucking NOTHING but an underground karaoke bar with it’s sign scrawled underneath a Korean Nail Salon store grate and a Water Ice shop that looks like it hasn’t seen business since the 70’s.
“Why don’t we go get Water Ices?”
“Water Ices are delicious.”
“I know that but I feel like a beer.”
“You only think you want a beer. Beer tastes like shit. You’ve fooled yourself. What you really want is a fresh Water Ice. Mmm-Mmmm. Water Ice.”
“No, what I really want is a beer. I’m an adult and as an adult I would like an adult beverage and adult beverages are not at the Water Ice shop. They’re in the creepy bar, so that’s where I’m going.”
“Fuck you guys, I’m gonna karaoke.”
The bar is carpeted and empty. The windows are blocked out with tin foil making J.R’s ominously warm despite the ceiling fan. Stagnant. Moist. No one’s here. No one’s getting back to our calls and texts and so we decide to load up on two buck Schmidt’ss…es..sss. Beer. The afternoon pain starts melting away. I can finally take a shit. HOORAY!
We play Ke$ha and Britney and The Modern Lovers on the jukebox. Curtis Mayfield. Some band called Taco Cat.
If no one’s coming to the party then we’ll goddamn well party without them. The bartender is keen on the idea. They had a teenage hardcore matinee earlier so they she didn’t make a dime.
We will tip well and drink heavily.
The guy handling door keeps thinking I am the bands. He buys me Jagermeister shots and can’t get enough of my “No Fun. Not Ever.” shirt.
“Not really, but she’s churning butter, see?”
“Yeah, churning butter sucks.”
A local band called Fucking Ugly starts setting up. It’s their second show and they’re supposed to be the draw. They’re not. The guitar player doesn’t know how to tune. The singer is big and bald and very close to my face. They’ll play four songs and head off to a better gig which we were not invited to.
This should suck.
“Classic fucking Philly.”
Who gives a shit?
They certainly don’t. Just pack up their instrument and go. though to the bald man’s credit he does stick around for Beer and Cable.
They’re next to play and out of nowhere is a sea of friendly faces a few of which are even familiar to me.
Beers are bought. Hugs are exchanged.
The bands slays and so do Cheap Meats. No surprise there, really. It’s just another night of barely controlled disarray.
Actually, no one’s in control. It’s a wonder we’re not all going up in flames.
An Eagles football is torn apart. People are on the bar, throwing their friends to the ground. Drinks are spilled and so is sweat and spit and all the joy that comes along with it. The guy who was working the door tries to lift me over his shoulder. He fails. Chooses someone else. People get knocked down. The bartender almost gets taken out.
She’s not such a fan of us now.
Cheap Meats play for twenty minutes, maybe. A few more than Beer and Cable.
And that’s it.
We pick up the cans, the football stuffing and throw them all away as furtively as a room of fuck ups can be, We load the gear in the van in the fucking rain and grab a few more drinks. Shoot the shit before we head on back to Staten Island.
“How you doing, man?”
“I think I’m drunk again. I’m not really sure. But tomorrow, I bet I’ll feel like shit.”
“That my friend, is the great thing about the rock. You fucking party…and then you sleep in.”