21 April 2008

Best Road Trip Ever

hardcore michelle

Michelle Shirelle photo by Kelly Lynn Sullivan

Driving 1500 miles in just slightly more than two days to see a band that plays every other week or so in your home town might not seem like the smartest use of one's time or money, let alone scarce and increasingly expensive petroleum reserves, but it turned out to be the best thing in ages for Matt Lame, Kelly Lynn, Carla Monoxide and myself.

True, the Steinways weren't the only attraction that made this whirlwind jaunt seem so attractive; they were playing with several of the best pop punk/punk bands going these days, including the Copyrights, Dear Landlord, Team Stray, the Dopamines and Be My Doppelganger. But it was still the Steinways, who rarely venture much beyond the NYC/NJ axis, constituting the main attraction.

We rolled out of Brooklyn early (well, 9 am - early by SOME standards) Thursday morning, were extremely lucky with traffic, which was almost nonexistent, and after a swift nine hour ride during which I kept expecting our carload of fun-lovers to start waving their arms back and forth and singing the theme to That 70s Show, arrived at the colorfully but entirely inaccurately named Stink House in Columbus, Ohio with hours to spare. The Steinways, who managed to bumble their way onto Staten Island before finally escaping New York City's orbit, turned up as it was getting dark.

My sole knowledge of/experience with Columbus consists of being taught as a young Michigan Wolverines fan to hate everything in it due to its being the home of the loathsome Ohio State Buckeyes, and a smash and grab (well, very little smashing and quite a lot of grabbing) raid on an outlying supermarket conducted by a vanload of starving hippies at the dawn of the 70s. I deny any connection with said vanload, but have it on good authority that seven of them strolled into the market looking as suspicious as you would expect them to after two weeks cooped up in a van and liberally helped themselves to everything they could carry until the authorities arrived, at which point they made a hasty exit that left little or no time for sightseeing elsewhere in Columbus.

We lounged around the porch of the Stink House on one of the first truly warm and beautiful days of spring and watched Toby, the soccer-playing Corgi being put through his paces until it was time to meander over to The Nude Ranch, which despite the somewhat misleading name turned out to be a relatively respectable punk house on the northern fringes of Columbus' rather substantial ghetto and sporting a big blue Obama '08 sign in the front yard.

The show would take place in a smallish garage at the back; in the meantime, someone had started a campfire, the Steinways unloaded copies of their extremely rare and already much prized by collectors Tour LP, a vinyl-only pressing of their upcoming album, and the still mild breezes wafted the smell of somebody's garlic patch over the assembled revelers.

The only disappointment was the absence from the bill of Delay, Columbus' premier trio of punk/hardcore awesomeness, but Austin, one of the Delay twins, is in a new band, Welcome To Concrete, and they opened the show. Austin plays drums, something which he's pretty new at, but the highlight for me was the bossy girl guitarist who constantly was telling the three boys what to do ("You need to tune your bass." "It'll be okay." "No, just do it now."). Let it be noted that for the most part they readily obeyed.

The Steinways weren't at their absolute best that night owing to Grath's microphone being rather ineffective. It's nice to hear the backup vocals loud and clear for a change, but not at the expensive of drowning out the lead singer. Not that it mattered all that much; the Columbus kids, whose reputation for fun and good times has stretched across the nation, danced and went crazy all the same. They seem to have this strange tradition involving two ratty-looking couch pillows, which get bounced overhead much the way beach balls would. People seemed determined not to let them fall, possibly for fear of scabies or other contamination they might contain.

The Copyrights were absolutely stupendous, even when they had to play in pitch black darkness once the overhead light, which had been flickering off and on all night, finally went out altogether, and Dear Landlord were outstanding as well. After lots of standing around and waving goodbye to the Delay twins, who cycled off into the night with their dutifully attached bike lights and (not matching) helmets, we ourselves headed south for the lovely city of Loveland, a Cincinnati suburb that is also the home of Mr. and Mrs. Lame, aka the parents of our intrepid driver, Matt Lame.

Do you know many parents who would not only wait up until 3:30 in the morning to welcome their son and three of his weird punk rock friends, but be completely and overwhelmingly enthusiastic about it? ("You're Carla Monoxide? Oh my God, you're famous!!") No, me neither. We all had our own beds, a repast of several different kinds of breakfast laid out on the kitchen table, learned everything we'd ever needed to know about Matt Lame's career as a young hockey player, and helped celebrate Mr. Lame's birthday by helping him move the new trellis to its permanent home. Frankly, I could have stayed there for the rest of the trip and enjoyed every minute of it, but destiny awaited us, first in The Other Columbus (Indiana, that is) and later that night in Indianapolis.

I probably never would have heard of the tiny town of Columbus IN were it not home to two PPMB stalwarts who, oddly enough, had never met before this day. Well, not IRL, anyway. Rex Postal, who had been the message board's resident Bad Boy for years before several competitors showed up, discovered what he called "the worst band in history" on Myspace, and was amazed to find that they hailed from Columbus as well. This led in turn to said band's lead singer, Warsau Joe (the band is known as the Resistors), also becoming part of our happy crowd, which led finally (yes, there was a point to all this) to Joe joining up with us for our trek to Indy.

But first we had to take a tour of (don't laugh) the architectural marvels of Columbus, Indiana. No, seriously. As I was first informed by Rex, who's just brimming over with civic pride even though he actually lives in a "suburb" called Taylorsville (apparently known locally as Trailersville), Columbus is internationally known as the home of some of the best modern architecture of our time. Those of you familiar with my feelings about most modern architecture may suspect there's an oxymoron alert dead ahead, but actually, some of it was quite interesting and even picturesque (for examples, see Kelly Lynn's photo blog, which also contains numerous pictures of the shows, the traveling, and even a couple of yours truly.

The show in Indianapolis was a hoot, as they must say somewhere or other. It was situated at the Halloween House, which is located, like the Nude Ranch, just to the north side of the city's rather substantial ghetto, and boasts a small, somewhat odoriferous basement that was just about the right size for tonight's crowd, which included not only the fans (us plus Melissa Jerkface) who'd journeyed from New York, but also a passel more who'd followed along from Ohio, and the various members of the six (6!) bands who were playing. I think a few locals might have turned up, too. No, seriously, the crowd was just about the right size to fill the available space, and fill it they did.

It was my first time seeing Team Stray, Be My Doppelganger and the Dopamines, and though the show was stopped midway through the Dopamines by the cops turning up to deal with some doofus who'd parked across the neighbors' driveway, all were worth the trip in themselves. Cops gone, festivities resumed with the Big Three, highlighted (in my opinion) by the Steinways, who while sometimes inconsistent, were right ON IT for this show, and were all smiles - even the legendarily dour Chris Grivet - right along with the audience.

The bro-down contingent took over the dance floor during the Copyrights set, driving many of us out into the back yard, where the summer-like temperatures of the afternon had given way to a cutting wind and a fitful rain, not ideal for the bozos like, um, me, who had decided that morning to break out the shorts and t-shirts for the first time this season. Pete Repellent, down from Portage IN with the lovely Annika Simple, came out to report that it was like "a damn Pennywise show down there," only with better music. Seriously, the bros were all ripping each other's shirts off for some unspecified reason, and eventually the overhead light got broken out and they continued their homoerotic group grope in the dark, which may have been fun for some, but I only note that the backyard contingent grew steadily larger the entire time.

Show over at about 1:30 am or so: the question is, what do we do now? There'd been noises made about our being able to roll out sleeping bags or blankets (assuming we had them) on the Halloween House floor, but it seemed as though by the time everything and everybody had settled down (and assuming a dry and not too filthy sleeping bag spot could be found), it would practically be time to get up and start driving to New York. So, in one of those fits of irrational exuberance that characterize (and are occasionally the downfall of) many great enterprises, we set out for New York City then and there.

By the time we'd got gas and a few snacks (perhaps that should be the other way around) and busted out of the Indianapolis city limits, it was closer to 2:30, and the reality of a 700+ mile trip into the rising sun began to set in. But it was too late to stop now, so Matt and I sat up front, him driving and me blabbing about whatever as we listened to Team Stray and (again and again) the Steinways as we blasted across Indiana and Ohio. The sun did indeed come up as expected, somewhere over the brief stretch of West Virginia that's always the most exotic portion of this particular route, and at that point Kelly Lynn took over front seat blabbing about whatever duties for the long slog across Pennsylvania. By the time we hit New Jersey, all of us were awake again, the day had grown warm and incredibly beautiful (hey, even New Jersey looked fabulous, what can I say?), and we were just about home again from the best road trip ever. A bit of nonsense getting through the Saturday afternoon Canal Street traffic was the only blip on the horizon, but Matt Lame, who'd driven every inch of the way (the man is a GENIUS, with a constitution of iron, no, make that TITANIUM), neatly navigated us through that, and by 2 in the afternoon I was safely back in Brooklyn. The best 53 hours I've spent in, well, just about ever.


Jersey Beat said...

I am insanely jealous. Almost exactly a year ago, I trekked to mid-America with Carla, Chadd, and Joe Steinhardt to catch up with the Steinways (and Unlovables) in Columbus OH. Anything anyone has ever said about how wonderful the basement shows are there was still underrating the experience. Glad to hear you guys had a great time. See you in the pit.

Jenna Alive said...

Re: The Parents Lame

You don't get to be someone as special and eternally positive as Matt Lame without some good gene's. Matt Lame has put me on the phone with his mom before, and she, like he, is awesome.

Re: Homoerotic, bro-groping, shirt-ripping basements

Maybe this is me getting old and being married, but that sounds hot. :)

Glad you enjoyed the Unofficial Official It's Alive Fest. Had airfares (and, alas, life) been a little more friendly, Adam and I would have really, really loved to have been there. It sounds like it was a damned good time.

The fest better live up.

jenna alive said...

Also, wow, Larry, before you lecture me, I swear that was a typo and not a momentary lapse of my senses.

Loveland,OH said...

Oh,Larry,Carla,Kelly and MATT it was wonderful to have you stay with us. It was a perfect Birthday to have Matt here. I enjoyed all the conversations and learned a lot in such a short time. Did I reslly sound so goofy when I realized who had come? I enjoyed seeing the photo blog. I thank all involved to have shows in the Ohio.
You all are welcome anytime.
Take care

Bret Liebendorfer said...

sucks you had to go to the stink house.

Larry Livermore said...

I had no problem with the Stink House. It didn't even stink that much.

Or are you suggesting it sucks for the Stink House that they had to endure my presence?