Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jonathan Richman (#2): Mr. Moonlight.


Jonathan Richman overcome by lunar forces, leading his audience outside the Lion's Lair in Denver, in order to literally gaze at the moon. 6/28/13.

Mudhoney (#1): Mudhoney Moments 2013.

Mudhoney celebrating its 25th year. Where the hell have I been as a listener all that time? 2013 was the year my ears finally embraced the band, digging into its sonic evolution. I've taken the plunge, dug the grunge. Dug their brand of pre-grunge psychedelia, their proto-grunge punk. You might even say I've become somewhat of a “Mudhead,” given that I checked Mudhoney out in Portland, Denver, and Seattle, last year. Touching: I haven't gotten sick of listening to them just yet. They feel like brothers from another kick-out-the jams-motherfucker! – if not mother. 

 Portland

 Seattle

Denver

 Denver

*

Thanks to Duane of The Derelicts for helping me gain backstage access after the Denver show. That signed single made for a great present. (Dig Duane sporting a t-shirt of my friend Johnny Strike's band CRIME.)



 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

John Waters (#1): Waters With Water.


[UPDATE: 5/22/14. I had the chance to interview film director John Waters for Culture magazine, which used my piece as its February 2014 cover story. Here's my favorite exchange:

What's your favorite part of being a storyteller?

WATERS: The most fun is when you think it up. When you first get the idea and nobody knows it but you. And it's your secret. And you give birth to it and you keep rewriting and working on it. That's the fun of it: Getting an idea that you realize you're going to live with for the next two years, and developing it and working on it every day. It's like an affair. An affair that sometimes works.]

*

Filmmaker provocateur John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, Cry-Baby) at a reception, following his speech and the showing of two of his favorite short films (by Kenneth Anger) at the Aspen Shortfest in 2001. Author of the essay collections Shock Value and Crackpot.

Waters was introduced at the event by a friend who was also an actress in his movie Hairspray: singer Debbie Harry of Blondie.



[Originally posted 8/1/09]

Thursday, November 21, 2013

William S. Burroughs (#5): Thankfully, Burroughs.


[NEAR-ENOUGH THANKSGIVING UPDATE OF 11/21/2013: Two of my photos of Burroughs wearing a late-'80s-era "brain machine" have been incorporated into this video (at 2:32 & 3:34) of the song "Burroughs" by Chelsea Light Moving (which features Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth). I like the song and the video so much that I'm not going to sic my entertainment attorney on the videomaker for copyright infringement!]



_____________________________________________


[ORIGINALLY POSTED 11/25/10:]

A couple of weeks ago at the Starz Denver International Film Festival, I saw the documentary that I’d been eagerly awaiting: William S. Burroughs: A Man Within. Denver’s alternative weekly Westword published a blog about my contributions towards the film’s making--since it features some of my photos of Burroughs, as well as audio (Burroughs talking about his “shotgun art”) from my interview with the writer. In fact, my black-and-white photo of Burroughs wearing a “brain machine” (above) can be seen within the documentary’s latest trailer:



The film offers a compelling look at Burroughs’ history, featuring the affecting recollections and perspectives of Patti Smith, John Waters, and Genesis P-Orridge. People unfamiliar with Burroughs and his work will learn about the counterculture legend from it, and longtime Burroughs devotees will gain new insights. In fact, in its stellar review of the film, the New York Times wrote, "There is not a word or image wasted in a documentary you wish ran an extra half-hour beyond its condensed 90 minutes."

I’m thankful that I was able to lend a hand.

Which reminds me: What would a Thanksgiving be without taking in a viewing of William S. Burroughs’ A Thanksgiving Prayer (also featured within the film)?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Oskar Alegria: Leave Oskar Alone.

In setting out to see the film The Search for Emak Bakia, I mistakenly went to the wrong movie theater. Billed as “an endlessly enchanting experimental documentary,” the film had been chosen as one of the selections for the Starz Denver Film Festival; unsurprisingly, the festival's roster incorporates multiple screening locations. So, whoops, I goofed-up by going to the theater on East Colfax (the same box office where I'd recently gone to have the order that I had purchased online changed, since I had accidentally purchased a Saturday showing for the film, rather than for earlier on Friday, as I had initially intended). Easy enough to rectify geographically, last night: back on the express bus to downtown, which had its delays when a confused middle-aged Latino man who hobbled with a cane -- due to having been shot through the legs, he would soon claim -- held things up with the driver, the passenger appearing unsure which direction he was supposed to be heading. Although I made it to the correct theater with plenty of time to spare, it turned out a good thing that I'd gotten off from work earlier than usual, by chance, because otherwise I might have missed the start of the presentation.

It soon became apparent that the film was making a name for itself, that it had festival buzz. In addition to selling out, I heard a film-studies professor mention that a movie critic friend had called it a “must-see.” [Update 11/19/2013: The Search for Emak Bakia won the Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary Film at the Starz Denver Film Festival.]


The Search for Emak Bakia (“a film about chance”). Going through the festival's programming a few weeks back, the name, the synopsis, and the trailer had stood out -- practically called out, in some way -- to me. A man attempts to find a palatial house in Spain named Emak Bakia (which translates as “Leave Me Alone” from the Basque language), which Dada and Surrealist artist Man Ray (someone whose painting, photographs, sculptures, I enjoy) had included within an arty film of the same name. In addition to clips from Man Ray's own film, there was a resonating image of Alegria's within the trailer: a discarded plastic glove blowing down the street, then seemingly doing a courting dance with a paper napkin in the breeze. The film takes circuitous detours before arriving at multiple conclusions: as just two for-instances, it also researches the fate of a clown whose image appears on a gravestone, as well as where a postcard that has just one line written on it (“Are you behaving yourself?”) had been sent and why it had been inscribed the way that it was.


As fortune would have it, filmmaker Oskar Alegria spoke afterward, something which I hadn't realized would be occurring.

Alegria said the following:
  • “I love to work with chance: you don't have to pay him. He's a good partner.”
  • “I like to search [for] things; I don't like to find them.”

  • “I love mistakes. I think the best inventions of human beings are mistakes: penicillin...Viagra, LSD, etc."

  • “I'm a journalist. But in this project I wanted to kill the journalist. I wanted to be another person: more poetical, more creative.” Rejecting his previous TV-work experience, Alegria set out to find a fresher path: “I think we all have to do something called 'Emak Bakia' in our life.”
Alegria discussed how he'd discovered -- by chance -- the Man Ray film, which had set in motion his own odyssey to find the house and why it was named “Leave Me Alone.” Alegria had thought of Man Ray as being just a photographer. But at the Tate Gallery in London, he walked into a projection room, part of the extensive Man Ray exhibit. Alegria soon saw the film with the words “Emak Bakia.”

“That's Basque!” he realized.

Just like himself.

Alegria described how his father had come from a small village. In his later years, he wrote down all the Basque words that had been disappearing. His father wrote down the names of rivers and birds, for instance, in his own little dictionary. His father believed that “if the word goes, the bird disappears.” Alegria says, “I tried to do the same thing with the [film] screen, not paper.”

Afterward, I had a chance, along with others, to speak with Alegria. In a magician-like gesture, he fanned black postcards out in his hands and asked people to pick a card, any card. On the underside, the cards contained various stills from the film. One of the cards stood out to me, the paper stock appearing darker than the others.

On it was a darkened, black-and-white Man Ray seaside image: “A section of undeveloped low coast. It was the only clue Man Ray gave about the place where he was filming the beach.”

I took the card fate had dealt me. And my leave.

Back to my own apartment, back to my own Emak Bakia.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Richard Vincent (#3): Remembering Curmudgeonly Richard.


R.I.P., Richard Vincent: 11/28/36 -- 3/30/12.

Richard Vincent was a confounding character. Even the people who he was closest to found the painter/sculptor prickly and off-putting. One friend still refers to him as the “original curmudgeon.” But Vincent bestowed humor – in addition to heaping doses of agita – upon those he took a liking to. Several remember him as being generous with his limited resources, someone capable of being deft at the personal touch. Most certainly, he made his share of enemies as well, delivering his unpopular beliefs with a sneering laugh. Sometimes, just a sneer. “Photography isn't art,” he dismissively told me on one occasion – a milder example, for sure, of one of his opinionated quotes. Towards the very end of his life, he expressed a few regrets about having alienated people with his uncompromising attitude, his dismissive and sometimes hostile demeanor.

He was the kind of guy who wasn't invited to a friendly collector's house because she feared that Richard would complain about how his art was hung. The kind of guy who, if you innocently offered him $200 some years ago for one of the plethora of small pieces laying about his studio, would adamantly refuse because paying a lesser price, he insisted, would be unfair to his collectors and devalue his artwork. But Vincent was also the kind of artist who would spend twelve hours working on a minute detail within a single painting – and be pleased as punch if someone actually noticed it. 
 
It's said by art maven Fran Mishler that he was meticulous in his painterly technique; that his geometrically-patterned, carefully-calculated canvases display exquisite details, which often surface only after close study. Bubbling colors and surface modulations result from multiple layers of glazing, she says. Tiny lines and amorphous, almost human shapes are built upon vibrant backgrounds. “You should be able to turn a painting three different ways and have it work,” he once informed me.

Born outside of Chicago, his parents separated while he was a young boy. He was raised by his father, then by a grandmother in California. As a child, he was badly burned, the scars still visible on his neck and face decades later. Somewhere along the line, he also lost an eye (in the fire, as well?) – which has led to the speculation that his limited sight may have contributed to his unique vision upon canvas. 

Small in physical stature, he must have had grand ambitions. Vincent studied art first in San Francisco, before moving to New York City in 1956, where he continued his education at Cooper Union at Columbia University. In the Big Apple, Vincent apprenticed to sculptors Peter Agonstini and Seymour Lipton.

In 1967, he moved to Colorado, residing in Salida, the Aspen area, and finally Denver. An acquaintance of his from the '90s, who remembers him less than fondly, quipped via email, “He reminded me of some itinerant Frenchman from the 1920's somehow caught in godforsaken cowtown Denver.” 

The mystery remains: What happened to Vincent's 1970 statue commissioned by the May D&F company for Denver's Zeckendorf Plaza? It was placed beside noted architect's I.M. Pei's hyperbolic paraboloid--before Pei's work was appallingly torn down in the years to come. Where is the statue today?

Throughout the years, his art was sporadically shown – although, across the globe. He exhibited at Maruyama Gallery in Nagano, Japan; at the Blue Man Gallery in Prague; at Quantair Arts in Den Haag, the Netherlands; at Oz Architecture in Denver.

 Richard Vincent at his exhibition at Oz Architecture.

A notable, human interest anecdote: This web site helped reunite Vincent with family members of his, whose online research led them to my previous photos of Richard inside his studio, and allowed them to make contact with him after 50 years. A sense of closure for his elderly aunt, who had always wondered what had happened to her sister's boy. After a cousin's initial talk with him, she reported back to me, somewhat aghast, that Vincent didn't own a TV or a computer! Didn't own them willingly, I'm sure – rather than as an indication of him being the proverbial starving artist – I replied.

Dying of lung cancer in a hospice outside of Denver, though, his last statement to a friend was a paraphrase of television anchorman Walter Cronkite's closing remark: 

“That's the way it goes,” painter and sculptor Richard Vincent resignedly concluded.

Richard Vincent at his Grant Street studio.



Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little Fyodor and Babushka (#5): The Whole World's Got Him In Its Hands.


Little Fyodor being group-groped by his band mates, including Babushka (far right).

On 7/13/13, a show is being held at Denver's Walnut Room in celebration of a new(ish) tribute CD to singer-songwriter Little Fyodor called The Unscratchable Itch. Quite an honor, given that you usually get a tribute CD (if at all!) only when you're dead or near-death. In addition to Fyodor cover songs by Ralph GeanBoyd Rice, and the Voodoo Organist, the CD includes one by the author of this blog, in addition to another by the side project that this author co-produces, Reverend Lead Pipe and the Evil Do'ers (my vocals on both cuts).

Twenty-one plus years ago I acquired Little Fyodor's cassette Beneath the Uber-Putz, a selection of original, punk-inspired songs that still bring me joy, thanks to the dark, witty vision of the songs' angst-ridden creator. It's an honor to have participated in the recording of "Small Talk" (from side "Uber" of the cassette) and "You Will Die" (from side "Putz") for the tribute CD. And I will be joyfully informing Little Fyodor of this on Saturday, after I perform onstage and before he does, when I request that he sign the sleeve of my precious cassette. (Check for it on sale on eBay on Monday!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Frank Kwiatkowski (#1): Cuts Like A Knife.

Frank Kwiatkowski holding one of his cone cut prints (now part of Gregory Ego's privately-held collection of Kwiatkowski artwork).

With oft-present syringe in practically every one of his visionary, dystopian etchings, Frank Kwiatkowski is an indefatigable diabetic if there ever was one, going all out to literally and figuratively illustrate how a wrecked health care system has left him a wreck. He's a street artist who quite visibly puts his woes out to the world in visually-arresting, shocking, amusing ways. The primary “gallery” for his poster series, The Kwiatkowski Press: on dumpsters, street poles. His medium: etchings used for printmaking which are cut into the backs of heisted, segmented, orange safety cones; the etchings are then inked and pressed onto paper or cut-up shards of the orange cones themselves.

It's been noted that, historically in art, wood block artists have often dealt in religious or political subject matter. Arguably, Frank's safety-cone artwork treads both those grounds, as well: think images of a martyred saint facing the slings and sharp-syringe arrows of the mismanaged health management system, or insular and prisoner-like within his costly bottle of life-sustaining insulin. It's Kwiatkowski's agitprop-with-attitude that has spurred me to serially photo document each discovery that I make of his art in shadowy Denver alleyways and on grotty street corners.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wheelchair Sports Camp (#1): Roll Another One.


Rapper Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp rolled one for High Times, and I just so happened to be the scribe along for the ride. My article on the hip hop group was published in the magazine's February 2013 issue.

Some of my favorite Kalyn quotes weren't able to be included in the piece. So here they are -- for the first time anywhere!:

*

On being a disabled rapper doing what she does:

"I have to be okay with myself, and not just okay but happy with myself."

On the notoriety that her group has accrued -- in large part, due to her:
 
"If press was money, we'd be filthy rich right now."

On whether she uses marijuana medicinally:

"Medical marijuana doesn’t really help with anything besides my stoner addiction."

On her incorporating unauthorized samples of some major recording artists:

"What are they gonna take: my wheelchair?"

*
 Hell no! Give the woman a gold-plated one.



Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pierced Arrows (#1): No Halloween Costumes Required.



Pierced Arrows dressed as themselves, Halloween Night 2012. Ash Street Saloon. Portland, Oregon.

 Fred Cole

A word often used to describe the husband (guitar/vocals) and wife (bass/vocals) team of Fred & Toody Cole is "legendary." After all, Fred Cole has a rock 'n' roll pedigree dating back to the '60s with his band the Weeds/Lollipop Shoppe, and their previous group Dead Moon garnered fans on at least a couple of continents. But I'd be remiss not to add "fun" and "intense" as onstage characterizations for them, as well.

Last night, I re-watched the Coles perform as part of Dead Moon in the 1996 documentary Hype! about the Seattle grunge scene. Although they're certainly representative of a Pacific Northwest psych-garage-punk sound, what's not mentioned in the flick is that the Coles pound terra 173 miles to the south in Portland -- not belly up to Puget Sound. Ah, the days when Portland got no respect!

As for the Coles and drummer Kelly Halliburton--"Much Respect," as the saying goes, for their gritty, gutsy playing, and Fred Cole's switchblade-insightful lyricism.

Toody Cole

Kelly Halliburton


Friday, December 7, 2012

Steve Bloom (#2): Reefer Flicks.


"Henry Hemp" interviewing Steve Bloom (right) about his book Reefer Movie Madness: The Ultimate Stoner Film Guide. Bloom, who runs the CelebStoner web site, edited articles of mine for High Times magazine, and gave me assignments to conduct feature interviews with authors Tom Robbins and T.C. Boyle.

For Reefer Movie Madness, I contributed a couple of movie reviews: Withnail and I ("Bruce Robinson's film deservedly has as devoted a cult audience in England as The Big Lebowski does in the U.S.") and Oliver Stone's Salvador ("There, Boyle and Rock encounter death squad victims at a mass dumping ground, right-wing paramilitaries, Marxist guerillas, and Reagan-administration interventionists who purposely overlook human rights violations by the El Salvadoran power elites...").

If I were being interviewed for a documentary right now, I'd say, "May there be less Reefer Madness, and more Reefer Movie Madness, in the days ahead."

Cut! That's a wrap!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ralph Gean (#22): Ready To Play At Seventy.

Today is rock 'n' roll original Ralph Gean's seventieth birthday. I'm sure if he has guitar in hand, and someone in front of him, he'll naturally be playing his own songs or cover tunes, and serving as the entertainment tonight at his own celebration.

Never have I witnessed a performer reach so many different types of audiences: whether it be white hipster dive-bar patrons as he plays his original songs like "Homicidal Me," or latinos gamely listening to him butcher the lyrics to "La Bamba" at a blue-collar bar, or old folks at a retirement home as he breaks out a hip-shaking, risque Elvis standard. Ralph has been enjoyed at peckerwood car lots, local talent shows, and Satanist wedding receptions. He has the gift of reaching all manner of people through his muse.

I'm delighted to add that Ralph sometimes entertains people by playing a cover version of my song "Kill for a Cigarette," which Ralph released on one of his own CDs, in addition to having tickled the keys on my very own, original Gregory Ego sound recording. (See YouTube video below.)



Here's hoping Ralph remains ready, willing, and able to rock and roll all night for years to come.

Happy Birthday to you, Ralph Gean!

Ralph opening for John Doe at the Lion's Lair in Denver on May 27, 2011.



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Paul Z. Simons: Anarchy in Johnny's Newsstand.

Paul Z. Simons, a onetime writer and editor for the magazine he's seen holding, at a now-defunct Denver newsstand. (I'm amused at how there's a loaded gun on the cover of TIME magazine, but not on Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed -- stereotypes be damned.) Currently, he's an editor for the magazine Modern Slavery: A Journal for the Abolition of all forms of Enslavement.

And Simons is also a onetime employer of mine. In the '90s, he headed an HIV and Hepatitis C prevention group called People Engaged in Education and Reduction Strategies (PEERS). From '97 to '98, I helped coordinate the organization's activities. Our non-profit co-hosted a conference on harm reduction that was attended by the health departments of several Western states, as well as Colorado's future governor. (My article on the event can be found here, on pg. 28.) We spearheaded a change in Denver law concerning syringe exchange, and attempted to reform state law in the legislature. And we hosted a regional user's group which solicited advice, on behalf of state funding overseers, from injection drug users on how to best offer services.

I once asked Simons how he managed to be a political outsider, yet still officiate in a very public way within the system.

"Compartmentalization," he shot back.

I still find that to be particularly helpful advice.

Wayne Kramer (#3): Wayne Raging On Guitar.


UPDATE: The photo above of Wayne Kramer was recently included within the book Feeding Back: Conversations With Alternative Guitarists by David Todd. It’s a book of interviews, which are as much about several, unique musicians’ takes on life as it is about their relationship with their instrument. For instance:
David Todd: Are you still a work in progress?
Wayne Kramer: Well, yeah. I haven’t pulled over and parked. I guess we’re coming back around to this idea of ambition, and I actually feel like I’m just getting started, you know…That’s why I’m grateful that I’m alive, I’m enthusiastic about every day. I know that my time is finite, but it’s enough time. It’s exactly enough time if you’re using it as best you can.
It’s time to express my gratitude. I was tickled pink – or, perhaps, red, white and blue (like Wayne’s axe) – that the Kramer organization directed Todd towards my photo, and suggested it be used as the one representative shot of the guitar-slinger that would be included in the book at the start of the interview.

*
Wayne Kramer makes ready to perform a most incendiary version of "Kick Out The Jams" with Rage Against the Machine, across town from the Democratic National Convention. Denver Coliseum. August 27, 2008.

Here's my Huffington Post interview with Kramer that took place prior to the event. Kramer relates his experience with the MC5 at the violence-soaked '68 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

(Click here for my other Wayne Kramer photos.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

fIREHOSE (#1): fIREHOSERS.


ed fROMOHIO and Mike Watt of  fIREHOSE. Early '90s. Where and when exactly...it's all a mystery to me today.

Having seen Mike Watt's previous band, I can attest that fIREHOSE were no Minutemen. But, then again, the Minutemen were no fIREHOSE.

Here's to fIREHOSE's present-day reunion -- and to Mike Watts' continued low-end endeavors.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Slim Cessna's Auto Club (#17): Celebrating Slim Cessna's Auto Club.


Cheers! Wishing the always energetic Slim Cessna's Auto Club another 20 years of activity. The band celebrates its double-decade existance this week with three gigs at the Lions Lair in Denver -- a rare treat. Those shows I'll be missing. But luckily I've seen the band at the venue, in the past. The photo above, though, was taken in Fort Collins in the late '90s.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tom Robbins (#2): The Green Man.

 

The photo that I took above accompanied my feature interview with Tom Robbins ("The Green Man") in the June 2000 issue of High Times. The same interview was recently reprinted in a scholarly work published by the University Press of Mississippi: Conversations with Tom Robbins. Nice to know that a state-affiliated publisher in Mississippi would concern itself with Mr. Robbins' thoughts concerning pyschedelics.

My favorite exchange:
HT: Why, in your opinion, is fiction still an important art form?

TR: Much more than an entertaining set of exaggerated facts, fiction is a metaphoric method of describing, dramatizing and condensing historical events, personal actions, psychological states and the symbolic knowledge encoded within the collective unconscious; things, events and conditions that are otherwise too diffuse and/or complex to be completely digested or appreciated by the prevailing culture. The human race has always defined itself through narration. That isn't going to change just because we've gone electronic. What is changing is that now we're allowing corporations to tell our stories for us. And as I write in my new novel, the message of the corporate story is always the same: "To be special, you must conform; to be valid, you must consume." Real fiction will prevail, however, because at its best it's an enchantment that refreshes the wasteland of the mind.
 Trip out on that! In Jackson, no less!

Carol Doda (#1): Carol Doda Keeps Her Shirt On.

 

 
Legendary Condor Club stripper Carol Doda displaying her vocal and stand-up comedienne — rather than bump ‘n’ grind — skills. At the nightclub Amante in North Beach, San Francisco. May 2010.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

William Breathes (#1): Chronicling The Chronic.

Cannabis critics? For sure: it’s not just wine, beer, or cigars that deserve appraising reviews.

The first cannabis reviewer that I ever read was a fellow who went by the initial “R,” while penning for High Times back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

These days, the anonymous – yet notorious – critic William Breathes writes for Denver’s alternative weekly Westword. Here’s a piece I wrote for Kush Magazine on Breathes (pg. 52).

As I state/ask in my article:
But Breathes can proudly face-off against other critics in the world of media. Let’s face it: there are a host of reviewers out there who note the aesthetics of a variety of commercial products – like wine, cigars, beer, food – and often use the same language, focusing on the terpenes that they detect in the nose or on the palette. Why not cannabis reviewers, as well, being considered as serious and distinguished trades people?

Little Fyodor (#3), Boyd Rice (#4), Ralph Gean (#21): Holding Court.


The Court Jester, The Duke of Doom, and The Star Trekkin’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Knight.

Little Fyodor, Boyd Rice, and Ralph Gean gathered together in fellowship at the Lion’s Lair in Denver. Franksgiving Celebration. 10/8/2011.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Das Racist (#1): Vas Ist Das Racist?

Kush Magazine published my article on rap act Das Racist, who I describe as thus:

A mixture of humor and bluster. Bark and snark. Singing about White Demons and White Castle hamburgers. Cartoonish. Playing with sedition in the classic, American tradition, like a Charlie Chaplin or Abbie Hoffman. A self-referential, all-brown, Cheech and Chong meets the Three Stooges meets the Beastie Boys.

Here are some of my photos of the group at Casselman’s on 11/19/10. A sloppy, fun show.

 Victor Vazquez

 Himanshu Suri

 Himanshu Suri & Ashok Kondabolu

 Himanshu Suri & Victor Vazquez

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Johnny Strike (#3): Wickedpedia.

One of the few friends of mine to have his own Wikipedia page, Johnny Strike certainly possesses a background worthy of being researched via an online encyclopedia: co-founder of the seminal San Francisco punk band CRIME; former methadone clinic counselor; author of two books. The above photo, taken in May 2010, also appears on his "author page" on the web site for Headpress, one of his publishers.

Ken Babbs (#1): The Psychedelic Captain.


Recently, I wrote an article on the Merry Prankster and author Ken Babbs, someone I'd long been interested in meeting again after encountering him once in Boulder in the early ‘90s. Luckily, Babbs just released a novel loosely-based on his time as a marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam at the start of that war – Who Shot the Water Buffalo? -- which allowed me to secure an assignment from Kush Magazine (scroll to page 108).

Babbs was there in '64 on the festively-painted bus Further with fellow writer Ken Kesey and crew: a journey spotlighted in Tom Wolfe’s novel The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and a new documentary film Magic Trip. The first public Acid Test was held at his place, as well. 

Here’s the psychedelic captain in July 2011 at his spread near Eugene, Oregon, flying both his American flag and his, so to speak, “Freak” flag.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sun Ra (#2): The Book Of Ra.

Some jazz texts may overlook the impact of jazz musician Sun Ra on popular culture, but (obviously) not Sun Ra: Interviews and Essays (Headpress, 2010). Ra championed a space age mythos in his live performances as well as recordings, incorporating costumes, improvisation, choreography, and big band compositions. Within the book, he is seen as an innovator, a catalyst, a precursor, and a visionary by those who still feel his impact: e.g., editor John Sinclair, poet Amiri Baraka, musicians Jerry Dammers and Wayne Kramer, and, ahem, myself—having contributed photos to the project. (The photo above, used in the book, was taken at Sun Ra’s "Election Night End of the World Party" on November 8, 1988 at The Broadway in Denver.)

Sun Ra excited my ears, entranced my mind, and awakened my own interest in and exploration of jazz and its history. The late bandleader promised the stars. And, for many who still revel in his brand of joyful noise, Sun Ra keeps keeping his promise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Purple Fluid (#1): Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kulwicki.



Here's what I remember about the Fluid: high energy, raw power, long hair, great presence, great drive. They were the band that served the image of Denver well on the Sub Pop roster -- the first non-Seattle band signed to the label.


The Fluid's drummer Garrett Shavlik

Regrettably, I never got to see any of the Fluid's reunion shows, which took place about a couple years ago, but I did get to see 'em a few times back in the day, back in the mid to late '80s. (And I also didn't get to see them a time or two when the fire department, for instance, would shut down a show before it began or midway into it.) Heck, I even opened up on a bill for them with my compadre Kirk Gill, both of us playing electric guitars, no drums, no bass, when I helped organize a couple of their appearances on the Auraria Campus at a club called the Mission.

I didn't know guitarist Rick Kulwicki, personally. But his recent death at age 49 felt like a chapter closing. He not only left behind great rock 'n' roll memories, he left behind two teenagers, who are carrying on his legacy: singer Richard and rhythm guitarist Roman of the band Purple Fluid.


Purple Fluid

The Kulwickis performed this past weekend with Purple Fluid at a benefit intended for them. They did a stand-up job of displaying their sonic lineage. Enhancing the event (and adding a heaping helping of Fluid to Purple Fluid), they were joined onstage for their set by two of their late dad's band mates: namely, drummer Garrett Shavlik and vocalist John Robinson.


John Robinson joins Purple Fluid onstage.

Missed the Kulwicki benefit shows? It's not too late to contribute here.